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    Bowels in Uproar: Gut Bacteria Claimed to Cause Alzheimer's

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    Intestinal microflora is of great interest to researchers as a potential cause of many diseases. Recently, gut bacteria have been found to accelerate the development of Alzheimer's disease, which is expected to open up new opportunities to prevent and treat the dreadful disease.

    Alzheimer's disease leads to the formation of clumps in and around the nerve fibers in the brain, which are called beta-amyloid plaques. Surprisingly, the link between the amount of beta-amyloid plaques and intestinal bacteria was discovered by a researcher team from Lund University, Sweden. By studying healthy and sick mice, researchers found that rodents suffering from Alzheimer's disease had a different set of intestinal bacteria than their more healthy counterparts.

    To clarify the link between gut microbiota and the onset of disease, the researchers transmitted bacteria from both sick and healthy mice to their germ-free peers. As a result, mice that received "diseased" microbiota developed more beta-amyloid plaques in the brain than those that received "healthy" microflora.

    "Our work is unique because we were able to show a direct causal link between gut bacteria and Alzheimer's disease. It is particularly striking that the mice that completely lacked intestinal bacteria developed much less plaque in the brain," Frida Fåk Hållenius from the Centre for Preventive Food Research said in a statement by Lund University.

    Fåk Hållenius ventured that the uplifting results may be the starting point of a scientific campaign to research ways of totally preventing the disease or at least delaying its onset.

    "We see it as a major breakthrough because we previously were only able to provide symptom-relieving antiretroviral drugs," Frida Fåk Hållenius said.

    The groundbreaking research is the result of an international collaboration between Associate Professor Frida Fåk Hållenius and doctoral student Nittaya Marungruang (both from the Centre for Preventive Food Research at Lund University), and a research team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. The partnership also received help from fellow researchers from Germany and Belgium together with an EU grant of 50 million SEK ($5.7mln).

    In the future, the research team intends to further study the role of bacteria in the development of Alzheimer's disease and test new types of preventive and therapeutic strategies based on the modulation of gut microbiota through diet and new types of probiotics.

    Gut bacteria are said to have a major impact on how people feel through the interaction between the immune system, the intestinal mucosa and their diet. The exact composition of the gut microbiota depends on hereditary factors, genes, lifestyle and diet.

    Alzheimer's disease is a poorly understood chronic neurodegenerative disease that progresses slowly and affects millions of people worldwide. In developed countries, Alzheimer's is one of the most costly diseases, with no existing treatment to stop or reverse its progression.

    In Sweden alone, there are 160,000 Alzheimer's sufferers in a nation of 10 million. According to the NGO Alzheimer Sweden, the social cost of Alzheimer's amounted to 63 billion SEK ($7bln) in 2012, making the disease about as costly as cancer, cardiovascular diseases and stroke combined.


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    Alzheimer's disease, dementia, Scandinavia, Sweden
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