Longevity

Longevity Briefs: Manipulating The Gut Microbiome To Treat Inflammatory Pain

Posted on 4 November 2021

Longevity briefs provides a short summary of novel research in biology, medicine, or biotechnology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: We know that the microbes in our guts can have profound effects on human health. One of the ways in which they do this is by releasing signals that affect our immune and central nervous systems. This has led some to wonder whether we might be able to treat pathologies related to these systems, such as chronic pain caused by inflammation, by altering the composition of the gut microbiome.

What did the researchers do: In this study, researchers gave rats a small injection of formalin, which causes an inflammatory reaction in the injected limb. They then gave some of the rats an antibiotic called vancomycin via their drinking water for two weeks – this treatment would be expected to kill certain types of gut bacteria. They monitored how much time the rats spent wheel running as a measure of whether the rats were in pain or not. They then gave some rats a faecal microbiota transplant to see if the effects of antibiotic treatment would be reversed.

Key takeaway(s) from this research: Rats that received antibiotic treatment appeared to experience reduces levels of inflammatory pain, and this effect was partially reversed when they received a faecal microbiota transplant. Antibiotic treatment mainly depleted the gut populations of Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes bacteria, and this was accompanied by changes in the gut concentrations of many amino acids (the building blocks used to make proteins).

We often hear about how antibiotic treatments can harm our gut microbiome and thereby have unintended harmful effects on our health. This research suggests how antibiotics might be used in the gut to beneficial effect, by manipulating the composition of the microbiome to reduce inflammatory pain even outside the gut, and perhaps ameliorate other conditions as well. First, we’ll need to know a lot more about the mechanisms behind this effect.


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References

Effects of Vancomycin on Persistent Pain-Stimulated and Pain-Depressed Behaviors in Female Fischer Rats With or Without Voluntary Access to Running Wheels: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2021.05.003

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