Could a change in diet be beneficial to people with autoimmune diseases such as lupus? Researchers have revealed how a dietary intervention can help prevent the development of this autoimmune disease in susceptible mice.
Daniel F. Zegarra-Ruiz, Asmaa El Beidaq, Alonso J. Iñiguez, Martina Lubrano Di Ricco, Silvio Manfredo Vieira, William E. Ruff, Derek Mubiru, Rebecca L. Fine, John Sterpka, Teri M. Greiling, Carina Dehner, Martin A. Kriegel. A Diet-Sensitive Commensal Lactobacillus Strain Mediates TLR7-Dependent Systemic Autoimmunity. Cell Host & Microbe, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.chom.2018.11.009
Yale immunobiologist Martin Kriegel led a research team and identified the single bacterium in the gut of mice that triggered an immune response leading to lupus disease. In lupus-prone mice the single bacterium Lactobacillus reuteri stimulated immune (dendritic) cells as well as immune system pathways that exacerbated Lupus disease development.
Daniel Zegarra-Ruiz investigated the potential impact of diet on this process. He fed mice a diet that mimics a high fibre diet in humans. The resistant starch is not absorbed in the small intestine, instead fermenting in the large intestine, enriching good bacteria and causing the secretion of short-chain fatty acids. This suppresses both growth and movement of the L.reuteri bacteria outside the gut that would lead to lupus disease.
More research is needed to establish how such findings translate to humans. Kriegel confirms that the study “identified a pathway that is driving autoimmune disease and mitigated by the diet”.
In a subset of lupus patients the study also found an imbalance of gut microbes similar to that observed in the lupus-prone mice who had not been given the starch diet. Kriegel noted that for this set of patients a high-fibre diet could potentially benefit to prevent or ameliorate the lupus condition, in addition to other diseases that activate the same immune pathway. He suggested that this may have implications beyond lupus.
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