Two new studies have uncovered the "strongest evidence yet" that gut bacteria could play a role in developing multiple sclerosis, reports Scientific American. It's estimated that the as of yet incurable disease, which occurs when the body's immune system attacks myelin coating on neurons, affects roughly 2.5 million people around the world.
In the first study, "gut germs that were unusually abundant in people with MS changed white blood cells in a way that made them more likely to attack the body’s own cells, including neurons," writes the publication of the new findings. "The other experiment found that gut germs from people with MS made mice more likely to develop the disease than did gut germs from their identical but healthy twins."
While previous studies have established that people with MS have different gut bacteria than healthy people do, these two new findings (from the University of California at San Francisco and Germany's Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, respectively) are the first to determine which comes first: the disease or the unhealthy gut bacteria. Both found that the presence of two unhealthy gut bacteria, Acinetobacter and Akkermansia, were "very rare in healthy people but more abundant in the MS patients," writes SA.