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Gut bacteria drive autoimmune disease

Bacteria found in the small intestines of mice and humans can travel to other organs and trigger an autoimmune response, states a new paper.

The researchers from Yale also claim that the autoimmune reaction can be suppressed with an antibiotic or vaccine designed to target the bacteria.

The findings suggest potentially promising new approaches for treating chronic autoimmune conditions – including systemic lupus and autoimmune liver disease.

Gut bacteria have been linked to diseases, including autoimmune conditions characterised by immune system attack of healthy tissue. 

To shed light on this, the researchers focused on Enterococcus gallinarum – a bacterium that is able to spontaneously “translocate” outside of the gut to lymph nodes, the liver, and spleen.

In models of genetically susceptible mice, the researchers observed that in tissues outside the gut, E. gallinarum initiated the production of auto-antibodies and inflammation – hallmarks of the autoimmune response.

They confirmed the same mechanism of inflammation in cultured liver cells of healthy people, and the presence of this bacterium in livers of patients with autoimmune disease.

The team also found they could suppress autoimmunity in mice with an antibiotic or a vaccine aimed at E. gallinarum. 

With either approach, the researchers were able to suppress growth of the bacterium in the tissues and to also blunt its effects on the immune system.

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