According to a story from Parkinson’s News Today, a small study recently demonstrated that fecal transplants could help relieve gastrointestinal problems in Parkinson’s disease patients, as well as reducing the severity of other non-motor and motor symptoms. Fecal transplant is a procedure in which the patient receives gut microbiota from a healthy volunteer donor. The findings could open the door to a new approach for treating the disease symptoms.
About Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a type of long term, progressive, degenerative illness that affects the central nervous system. Symptoms tend to develop over a period of years and primarily affect the movement ability and mental state of the patient. The cause of Parkinson’s disease remains a mystery, although there are a number of risk factors that have been identified. These factors include head injuries, pesticide exposure, and certain genetic variants and mutations. About 15 percent of patients have a close relative with the disease, suggesting some genetic connection. Symptoms include slowed movements, poor coordination, trouble walking, shaking, stiffness, abnormal posture, depression, anxiety, inhibited thinking, hallucinations, and dementia. Treatment may involve a number of medications, rehabilitation, and surgical operations. Survival rate varies, but most patients survive around a decade after getting diagnosed. To learn more about Parkinson’s disease, click here.
The Gut Microbiome and Neurological Disease
A fecal transplant can interfere with the gut-brain axis, which plays a role in controlling digestive tract function. It also appears to be impacted by disease, including neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease. Constipation and related digestive issues are a common non-motor symptom in the disease, being reported by around 70 to 80 percent of patients. Prior studies have linked these symptoms, as well as motor impairments, to abnormalities in the gut microbiome.
11 patients (seven men and four women) who complained of constipation participated in the study. After receiving the transplant, their symptoms were evaluated at six weeks and again at twelve weeks. All but one of the patients demonstrated a significant reduction in symptoms at twelve weeks when evaluated using the Hoehn and Yahr (H-Y) Grade.
Constipation also was improved at the six week mark, and homocysteine, a commonly used biomarker for neuron damage in Parkinson’s, was also lower at twelve weeks. The treated patients also saw marked alteration to the diversity and richness of bacteria in their gut, with a larger number of species and better richness at the 12 week mark that was comparable with the control group of healthy volunteers.
The researchers concluded that fecal transplant could be effective for Parkinson’s with gastrointestinal symptoms, though further research is needed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of this approach.
The study was originally published in a journal called Microbial Cell Factories. Click here to read it.