This new research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham called on metagenomics, which analyzes the genetic material found in feces. The researchers looked at the genetic material of participants with Parkinson’s and compared it to people who didn’t have the disease. The results showed that the gut microbiome is involved in the development of PD; in fact, the results showed that it’s involved in more ways than one.
In total, the team analyzed 257 species of gut organisms in 490 people with PD and 234 people without the illness. The results found that out of the 257 species studied, about 84 were associated in some way with Parkinson’s disease—55 were abnormally high in those with PD, and 29 were noticeably low.
As one of the senior authors on the study, Haydeh Payami, Ph.D., professor in the Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine Department of Neurology, said in a statement, the major goal behind this study was to get a big-picture understanding of the gut imbalances that occur in Parkinson’s. This study helped accomplish that, and also provided a more detailed understanding by revealing a few specific types of bacteria that seem to play a role in the disease. For example, the results showed that a type of bacteria called Roseburia intestinalis was 7.5-fold less abundant in those with PD and one called Actinomyces oris was 6.5-fold more abundant.
As Payami explained: “This is exciting research, as metagenomics is a new, albeit fast-evolving field, and the resources, methods, and tools, while state-of-the-art, are still in development.” This study provides a concrete path forward for investigating the link between these specific bacterial imbalances and this specific disease. “We anticipate that in the near future, we will have the tools and the analytic power to…investigate the potential in manipulating the microbiome to prevent, treat and halt the progression of PD.”