Promising Outcomes of Original Grant:
In their previous study these researchers investigated whether the abundance of different microbes in the gut differs between Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients and control subjects. They found that in particular one species was significantly reduced in PD patients and that the levels of another species were associated with certain PD symptoms. These results are promising since this may point to a role of gut bacteria in PD, but further studies are needed to confirm this. Furthermore, it may be possible to use analysis of gut bacteria as a diagnostic tool for PD in the future.
Objectives for Supplemental Investigation:
In the next phase of this study, the research team will invite their subjects to a follow-up visit approximately two years after the initial visit. They will take another set of bacterial samples and will measure clinical symptom progression. Then they can analyze whether it would have been possible to predict the speed of progression already at the first visit based on the bacterial findings. They will also investigate whether the bacterial populations identified in the first set of samples have changed in comparison to the samples taken two years later. They, too, will investigate oral samples to study whether bacterial abnormalities are also present in the oral cavity and could be used as a diagnostic tool.
Importance of This Research for the Development of a New PD Therapy:
If further studies confirm that bacteria are indeed involved in PD, this would open up a whole new field for development of new therapies since bacterial populations can be influenced by medications, diet or supplementation of bacterial strains. If bacterial changes are present before motor symptoms appear, this might give researchers a chance to diagnose PD earlier.