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MS study probes how gut reactions influence risk of disease

People with MS are being invited to join a study that will investigate the effect of gut bacteria on health.

Researchers will analyse bacteria living in the digestive systems of people with MS and compare them with samples from people they live with who do not have the condition.

The findings may help scientists understand how these bacteria can affect the immune system, and the impact this may have in determining the development of MS.

Gut bacteria

Bacteria in the gut play a crucial role in helping to digest food and fight off infection.

Sometimes, if the balance of bacteria is disturbed it can cause disease.

The study will use DNA sequencing technology to identify which bacterial populations are more – or less – abundant in people with MS.

International trial

Researchers at the University are recruiting 500 co-habiting pairs from across Scotland. People with MS will be invited to participate in the study along with another member of their household.

By studying bacteria in people who live together, scientists hope to pinpoint the role of shared environmental influences such as eating habits, smoking and lifestyle.

The international trial – being conducted in the US, UK and Argentina – is being led by the University of California. 

It has been funded by a philanthropic donation.  

While we understand a lot about the genetic factors of MS, exactly how the environment influences our immune system has been difficult to pinpoint. Human gut bacteria are placed at the interface between our immune system and the outside environment, and so provide ideal material to address this question.

Dr Peter ConnickStudy leader at the University's Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic

More information

Participants will be asked to give a blood and stool sample and to complete a detailed questionnaire about their eating habits and home environment.

People interested in joining the study can find more details at www.annerowlingclinic.com.