In the News: Lupus and the Microbiome

Results of a mouse study using bacteria to control lupus attracted news coverage last week after they were published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Lupus Research Institute Novel Grant Recipient Gregg Silverman, MD at NYU School of Medicine provides the following perspective for lupus patients:

“This recent report by Zhang and coworkers makes a significant early step in advancing our understanding of how diet and the germs in our bowels might affect disease severity in lupus. The data showed a correlation with disease progression with imbalances of the different types of bacteria in the bowel, a process termed dysbiosis. Indeed these scientists also found that induced increases in bowel of lactobaccillus, a component of yogurt with active cultures, appeared to improve disease. However, it should be appreciated that these studies were performed in a well investigated but nonetheless idiosyncratic mouse model of lupus-like disease.  Moreover, both the molecular defect in this model and the biology of mice are in many ways different from that of humans.”

With Dr. Silverman’s grant from the LRI, he and his team are studying the role of bacteria in lupus directly in humans, using cutting-edge DNA sequencing technology to identify all the gut germs in over 100 lupus patients.This survey of the gut "microbiome," the first in lupus patients, might reveal new strains of bacteria that are risk factors for lupus. This knowledge could be used to predict who will get the disease, allowing for early treatment or prevention. Read more about Dr. Silverman’s work.

“The lupus research community should now be energized to advance research efforts to better understand the responsible mechanisms and determine if there is relevance to a disease that affects hundreds of thousands of Americans. We hope that these new and exciting initial findings will lead to earlier diagnosis and more effective and safe interventions which previously were not even on our radar.”