We already know a great deal about how the bacteria that live on and within us play a huge role in our overall level of health and wellness. They are more than just simple passengers along for the ride. They play a critical symbiotic relationship with the rest of our bodies by interacting with our cells and playing host to many vital bodily functions.
Now, researchers are discovering that our gut bacteria may play a role in the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus. More commonly known as lupus, this is an autoimmune disease associated with many different systems that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue and causes joint problems, tiredness, and rashes. Pain is associated with inflammation of the kidney, lungs, and even brain.
For a long time, little was known about what caused lupus, but a new study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine finds that one of the potential contributing factors might be the bacteria in the gut. While researchers have not stated gut bacteria may be the primary cause, factors associated with it may play a part in aggravating the condition.
The mechanism governing the actions behind lupus is the Ro60 protein, which can be found in some bacteria that lives in soil. When lupus flares up, it attacks this protein. When researchers examined whether gut bacteria produce this protein they discovered it does. For those who have lupus, the presence of Ro60 might trigger an immune response.
Researchers took bacteria that produce a similar protein in mice bred without gut bacteria. The resulting reaction was like what is seen in people who have lupus. Until now it has been assumed that lupus results from a combination of genetics, hormones, and environmental factors. It could be that those who have a genetic susceptibility to the Ro60 hormone may also be at greater risk, as the presence of this protein will put their immune system into overdrive.
As researchers continue to find the triggers responsible for autoimmune and other chronic conditions, it is likely that answers will likely continue coming from unexpected places.