– EN Fitness & Wellbeing – Help could be at hand for lupus sufferers like Selena Gomez and Nick Cannon, as new research indicates it is caused by bacterial imbalances in the gut.
Despite an estimated 1.5 million Americans have the autoimmune disease, officially known as systemic lupus erythematosus, its cause has remained a mystery, although it is known to be more common in women and genetic factors have been thought by many to be responsible.
However, scientists at New York University School of Medicine found that 61 women suffering from the life-threatening illness, symptoms of which include pain in the joints, skin, and kidneys, had five times the amount of a specific gut bacterium, Ruminococcus gnavus, found in non-sufferers.
The new study’s senior investigator and immunologist Dr. Gregg Silverman says his research may help solve the mystery as it suggests that leaks of the bacteria from the gut may be what triggers the life-threatening immune disorder.
“Our study strongly suggests that in some patients bacterial imbalances may be driving lupus and its associated disease flares,” he explains. “Our results also point to leakages of bacteria from the gut as a possible immune system trigger of the disease, and suggest that the internal gut environment may therefore play a more critical role than genetics in renal flares of this all too often fatal disease.”
Their study also showed that “flares” in the disease, which occur when sufferers have an increase in the severity of their symptoms, were linked to major upticks in R. gnavus bacterial growth in the gut. Although symptoms are often mild or non-existent for long periods, when it flares up lupus can cause arthritis, hair loss, and even death from kidney failure.
Dr. Silverman hopes his team’s research could be used to develop simple blood tests tracking bacteria levels that could help diagnose the disease in its earliest stages and develop treatments. These could include encouraging the growth of a rival gut bacteria that inhibits R. gnavus’ growth, as well as inexpensive probiotics or dietary regimes that could help suppress lupus sufferers’ symptoms.