Short-chain fatty acids and gut microbiota in multiple sclerosis

Acta Neurol Scand. 2019 Mar;139(3):208-219. doi: 10.1111/ane.13045. Epub 2018 Dec 3.


Background: Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic immune-mediated neurological disease of the central nervous system with a complex and still not fully understood aetiology. In recent years, the gut microbiota and fermentative metabolites like short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) have received increased attention in relation to the development and disease course of MS. This systematic review highlights and summarizes the existing literature within this field.

Methods: A systematic search in PubMed was conducted on 12 October 2017, to find published original studies on SCFAs and their impact on MS and the animal model of MS experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Furthermore, all studies analysing the gut microbiota in MS patients were included. A total of 14 studies were eligible for this review.

Results: Short-chain fatty acids have been shown to ameliorate the disease course in EAE, but no studies specifically addressing the role of SCFAs in human MS patients were identified. However, some investigations have shown that the microbiota of MS patients is characterized by a reduction in SCFA-producing bacteria.

Conclusions: Studies of EAE in mice suggest that SCFAs may play a role in the development and progression of EAE, but so far this has not been confirmed in humans. An aberrant gut microbiota in MS patients has been reported to be differentially abundant compared with healthy controls, although with little consistency in the bacterial taxa. Further investigations are required to elucidate the involvement of the gut microbiota and its metabolites, including potential beneficial effects of SCFAs, in the development and course of MS.

Keywords: experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis; gut microbiota; multiple sclerosis; short-chain fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / immunology
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / microbiology
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Multiple Sclerosis / immunology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / microbiology*


  • Fatty Acids, Volatile