Digesting the emerging role for the gut microbiome in central nervous system demyelination

Mult Scler. 2014 Oct;20(12):1553-9. doi: 10.1177/1352458514541579. Epub 2014 Jul 28.


The fields of microbiology, immunology, neurology and nutrition are rapidly converging, as advanced sequencing and genomics-based methodologies have enabled the mapping out of the microbial diversity of humans for the first time. Bugs, guts, brains and behavior were once believed to be separate domains of clinical practice and research; however, recent observations in our understanding of the microbiome indicate that the boundaries between domains are becoming permeable. This permeability is multidirectional: Biological systems are operating simultaneously in a vastly complex and interconnected web. Understanding the microbiome-gut-brain axis will entail fleshing out the mechanisms by which transduction across each domain occurs, allowing us ultimately to appreciate the role of commensal organisms in shaping and modulating host immunity. This article will highlight animal and human research to date, as well as highlight directions for future research. We speculate that the gut microbiome is potentially the premier environmental risk factor mediating inflammatory central nervous system demyelination, in particular multiple sclerosis.

Keywords: Autoimmunity; Bacteroides fragilis; host immunity; inflammation; intestinal bacteria; microbiome; multiple sclerosis; review; short chain fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity / immunology*
  • Demyelinating Diseases / immunology
  • Demyelinating Diseases / microbiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / immunology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / microbiology*
  • Microbiota / immunology*
  • Microbiota / physiology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / etiology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / immunology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / microbiology*