Study finds that healthy bacteria in yogurt may reduce lupus symptoms in mice

October 2, 2017
Researchers Xin Luo and Qinghui Mu have discovered that beneficial bacteria found in yogurt may affect the severity of lupus. Credit: Virginia Tech

Researchers at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech have released findings that explain how a type of healthy bacteria in yogurt and other dairy products might reduce disease symptoms in certain patients with lupus.

Xin Luo, assistant professor of immunology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, and her colleagues expanded upon earlier research linking a lack of Lactobacillus, which produces lactic acid and is an important part of gut microbiota in both humans and mice, and autoimmune diseases such as lupus. The new research describes the mechanism behind this association.

"In our 2014 paper, we found that mice with lupus had decreased amounts of Lactobacillus, which led to our hypothesis that adding this bacteria could ameliorate ," said Luo, who added that she and her colleagues also found that the mice had a "," a condition that affects the intestinal lining. "Probiotics, such as Lactobacillus, work by patching up and reversing the leaky gut."

Lupus is an autoimmune that can cause chronic fatigue, joint pain, rash, fever, renal failure, and even death. It affects an estimated 3 million people in the United States. Luo's recent study deals with , or inflammation of the kidney that is caused by lupus.

According to the National Resource Center on Lupus, lupus nephritis usually develops within the first five years after start, and as many as 40 percent of all people with lupus, and up to two-thirds of children with the disease, will develop kidney complications.

"In addition, we found that the addition of Lactobacillus to the diet only affected female mice and not males," said Luo, who explained that lupus is 10 times more prevalent in females than in males. "We think that testosterone is suppressing the effect of the . Before our study, researchers had never looked at male hormones suppressing the probiotic effect before."

The research team included Qinghui Mu, a Ph.D. student in the biomedical and veterinary sciences program and recent recipient of a prestigious American Association of Immunologists Careers in Immunology Fellowship, and S. Ansar Ahmed, professor of immunology and associate dean of research and graduate studies at the veterinary college. Ahmed is also one of the leading authorities on the effect of hormones on lupus and other autoimmune disorders.

Although the research was limited to mice with lupus and kidney inflammation, and more work would need to be done to determine whether Lactobacillus has the same effect in humans, Luo emphasized that yogurt and probiotic supplements are considered safe.

"If a lupus patient is female and also has kidney inflammation, there would be no harm in adding yogurt or a probiotic supplement to the diet," she said.

Now that researchers have identified the "good" bacteria that affects the severity of lupus, they hope to turn their attention to other areas of research.

"The next question is, 'Are there bad bacteria that can be detrimental to the disease?' " Luo asked. "If that can be found, we can target the bad bacteria and remove them to ameliorate disease symptoms."

The paper, "Control of nephritis by changes of ," was published in the July issue of the journal Microbiome.

Explore further: Exercise may stem kidney damage in lupus patients

More information: Qinghui Mu et al, Control of lupus nephritis by changes of gut microbiota, Microbiome (2017). DOI: 10.1186/s40168-017-0300-8

Related Stories

Exercise may stem kidney damage in lupus patients

September 19, 2017
(HealthDay)—Regular exercise may slow kidney damage in people with lupus while stress may prompt the opposite effect, new research suggests.

Study suggests altering gut bacteria might mitigate lupus

October 20, 2014
Lactobacillus species, commonly seen in yogurt cultures, correlate, in the guts of mouse models, with mitigation of lupus symptoms, while Lachnospiraceae, a type of Clostridia, correlate with worsening, according to research ...

PTSD linked with increased lupus risk

September 20, 2017
In a study published in Arthritis & Rheumatology, trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in civilian women were strongly associated with increased risk of developing lupus, an autoimmune disease.

Reports reveal racial and ethnic disparities in lupus rates

September 11, 2017
Two new papers reveal striking racial and ethnic disparities in the incidence and prevalence of lupus, a systemic autoimmune disease that can affect virtually any organ system. The reports, which are published in Arthritis ...

New study reveals hidden burden of Lupus among Hispanic and Asian women in Manhattan

September 11, 2017
Within Manhattan's diverse population, the chronic and often debilitating autoimmune disease lupus affects Hispanic and Asian women more frequently than white women, according to a new study led by investigators at NYU School ...

Researchers identify gene variants that may cause kidney problems in lupus patients

August 22, 2013
Variants in a particular gene are linked with an increased risk for kidney complications in patients with lupus, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN). ...

Recommended for you

Tracing cell death pathway points to drug targets for brain damage, kidney injury, asthma

October 19, 2017
University of Pittsburgh scientists are unlocking the complexities of a recently discovered cell death process that plays a key role in health and disease, and new findings link their discovery to asthma, kidney injury and ...

Scientists find where HIV 'hides' to evade detection by the immune system

October 19, 2017
In a decades-long game of hide and seek, scientists from Sydney's Westmead Institute for Medical Research have confirmed for the very first time the specific immune memory T-cells where infectious HIV 'hides' in the human ...

Researchers release the brakes on the immune system

October 18, 2017
Many tumors possess mechanisms to avoid destruction by the immune system. For instance, they misuse the natural "brakes" in the immune defense mechanism that normally prevent an excessive immune response. Researchers at the ...

Gene transcription in virus-specific CD8 T cells differentiates chronic from resolving HCV

October 17, 2017
Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators have identified differences in gene transcription within key immune cells that may distinguish those individuals infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) who develop chronic ...

How cytoplasmic DNA triggers inflammation in human cells

October 17, 2017
A team led by LMU's Veit Hornung has elucidated the mechanism by which human cells induce inflammation upon detection of cytoplasmic DNA. Notably, the signal network involved differs from that used in the same context in ...

Early trials show potential for treating hay fever with grass protein fragments

October 13, 2017
Protein fragments taken from grass can help protect hay fever patients from allergic reactions to pollen grains.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.