In recent years, many studies have centered around the role of the gut – and the gut microbiota – on overall health. Some studies have identified how balancing imbalanced gut bacteria could help reduce negative health effects. Others, such as a study performed by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine, learned how certain bacteria could contribute to health problems. Medical XPress shares that this study found that segmented filamentous bacteria (SFB) within the gut caused adverse reactions in mice models of lupus nephritis.
To learn more about the study findings, take a look at Scientific Reports.
SFB and the Gut Microbiota
The gut microbiota refers to the bacteria, archaea, and eukarya within the gastrointestinal tract. You may also hear the gut microbiota referred to as the “microbiome” or “gut flora.”
Within this particular study, researchers sought to more deeply understand the role that the gut microbiota – an environmental factor – played on the development or progression of lupus nephritis. Better recognizing these environmental factors at play could help scientists develop more targeted treatments or management options in the future.
Researchers chose to focus on SFB as this bacterium has previously been associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). As RA and lupus are both autoimmune conditions, researchers felt that this study could provide more insights into the bacterium and how it drives illness.
What are SFB?
Taconic Biosciences, Inc. describes segmented filamentous bacteria (SFB) as:
Gram-positive, spore-forming bacteria that were originally identified in the ilia of mice and rats. Since their discovery, many publications have identified them as a key component in many experimental models…a few of these systems include: T-helper cell development and activation, IgA production, role in autoimmune diseases, [and] influence on the development of the gut immune system.
The Link to Lupus Nephritis
Within this study, researchers introduced SFB to mice models of lupus and lupus nephritis. Findings from the study include:
- The introduction of SFB caused significantly worsening lupus nephritis.
- Within the gut, SFB contributed to bacterium imbalance by changing some of the other forms of bacteria.
- SFB caused worsening inflammatory kidney lesions and a “leaky” intestinal wall, or “leaky gut.”
As a result, researchers determined that SFB can throw off the gut microbiota and cause worsening health effects. In the future, more research is warranted. Particularly, researchers will look at the possibility of removing SFB from the microbiome as a potential treatment option.
What is Lupus Nephritis?
Some people with lupus may later develop a complication called lupus nephritis, a kind of kidney inflammation. In patients with lupus, autoantibodies are created which mistakenly attack the body. These autoantibodies affect the kidneys. In particular, for those with lupus nephritis, the autoantibodies attack the specific parts of the kidneys that filter waste from the body, resulting in a variety of symptoms and health issues. Lupus, and thus lupus nephritis, are much more common in females than in males. An estimated 50% of adults with lupus, and 80% of children with lupus, will later develop lupus nephritis.
Symptoms associated with lupus nephritis include:
- Hematuria (blood in the urine)
- Foamy or dark urine
- Joint or muscle pain or swelling
- Proteinuria (excess protein in the urine)
- Edema (swelling caused by excess fluid) in the feet, legs, or ankles
- High blood pressure
- Fever with no known cause
- Red butterfly-shaped rash (often on the face)
- Kidney failure