Multiple Sclerose Centrum
Noord Nederland

5. Identify the contribution of infectious pathogens and gut microbiota in MS progression and remyelination.

There are indications that infectious pathogens (e.g., viruses, bacteria) may contribute to the development and course of MS. However, many of these indications are indirect, and the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. For example, experiencing Pfeiffer’s disease by the Epstein-Barr virus increases the risk of MS. In addition, several different infections are associated with the sudden worsening in the disease course.


Gut microbiota composition and function in Lifelines cohort participants with MS

Investigators – Jon Laman, Sasha Zhernakova, Sebo Withoff, Jan Meilof, Thea Heersema

Project: Major developments in advanced technologies allow the typing of all bacterial species in the human gut (gut flora or microbiota) using feces samples. Prior studies have suggested that some bacterial species can negatively affect brain function. Recent studies in patients and mouse models for MS suggest that these bacteria also play a role in MS.

In the three northern Dutch provinces, a unique population study is ongoing, the Lifelines cohort with 165.00 participants. Three generations of inhabitants are medically monitored for 30 years, answering questions on lifestyle including diet, and providing samples of blood, urine and feces. 368 participants have indicated that they have MS.

In this project we will first establish MS type and activity, and subsequently the gut microbiota composition of these participants will be assessed. Since bacterial composition of the gut can be conveniently affected by the diet (for instance by pro-biotics in yogurt and similar products, and by pre-biotics such as fiber), we argue that this research line can contribute to MS treatment.

Supported by the Dutch MS Research Foundation