Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerves and cells in the brain responsible for movement. It affects around 1 in every 1,000 people, and causes symptoms such as shaking and muscle tremors, muscle rigidity, difficulty balancing, slow and imprecise movements and many others.
A study, led by the University of Helsinki Institute of Biotechnology in Finland, tested the gut bacteria of 72 patients with Parkinson’s disease alongside a group of healthy people with no disease.What they found was that the people with the disease appeared to have distinctly different gut bacteria to those with no disease. For example, patients with the disease had almost no bacteria from the Prevotellaceae family, where as people in the healthy group did.
Another curious finding was that people who were diagnosed with Parkinson’s also suffered with gut complaints, such as constipation, for many years preceding their diagnosis. But the gut – brain connection is no longer as mysterious as it once was. Mood disorders such and anxiety and depression are now being linked with certain bacteria, and as more research is carried out we may begin to see our gut linked with more degenerative brain and nerve disorders.
Whilst this study is not conclusive, it does raise certain questions. Are our gut bacteria changed because of a certain disease? Or is the change in bacteria a possible cause of the disease? Many more years of research and tests are needed before we have an answer, but this could be a significant breakthrough.