The gut microbiome in drug-resistant epilepsy

Epilepsia Open. 2021 Jan 13;6(1):28-37. doi: 10.1002/epi4.12461. eCollection 2021 Mar.


Drug-resistant epileptic patients make up approximately one-third of the global epilepsy population. The pathophysiology of drug resistance has not been fully elucidated; however, current evidence suggests intestinal dysbiosis, as a possible etiopathogenic factor. Ketogenic diet, whose effect is considered to be mediated by alteration of gut microbiota synthesis, has long been administered in patients with medically refractory seizures, with positive outcomes. In this review, we present data derived from clinical studies regarding alterations of gut microbiome profile in drug-resistant epileptic patients. We further attempt to describe the mechanisms through which the gut microbiome modification methods (including ketogenic diet, pre- or probiotic administration) improve drug-resistant epilepsy, by reporting findings from preclinical and clinical studies. A comprehensive search of the published literature on the PubMed, Embase, and Web of science databases was performed. Overall, the role of gut microbiome in drug-resistant epilepsy is an area which shows promise for the development of targeted therapeutic interventions. More research is required to confirm the results from preliminary studies, as well as safety and effectiveness of altering gut bacterial composition, through the above-mentioned methods.

Keywords: antibiotics; gut microbiota; intestinal dysbiosis; ketogenic diet; probiotics; refractory epilepsy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet, Ketogenic*
  • Drug Resistant Epilepsy / diet therapy*
  • Drug Resistant Epilepsy / physiopathology
  • Dysbiosis / etiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use*