For The First Time, Science Links Fibromyalgia To Gut BacteriaMay 1, 2021
Many chronic pain disorders are still not fully understood by science. If you live with any of these, you may know the frustration of endless doctor’s visits. There is often very little you can do but try to manage your symptoms. Fibromyalgia is one of the more well-known chronic pain disorders. Many celebrities, such as Lady Gaga, have been speaking out on the devastating physical and emotional impacts. However, a Canadian research team has made an exciting new discovery. The bacteria in your gut might impact your fibromyalgia.
Gut Bacteria and Chronic Pain
Researchers from Quebec, Canada’s McGill University made an interesting discovery in April of 2019. Gut bacteria has a very strong link to the chronic pain disease, fibromyalgia. In fact, the research team shows, there are 19 different kinds of bacteria in the gut that appear in either greater or lesser qualities in those suffering from fibromyalgia than in a control group of healthy individuals.
However, lots of factors can affect the bacteria in the human gut. So the researchers “used a range of techniques, including Artificial Intelligence, to confirm that the changes we saw in the microbiomes of fibromyalgia patients were not caused by factors such as diet, medication, physical activity, age, and so on, which are known to affect the microbiome,” according to Dr. Amir Minerbi. He is the first author of the paper, which was published in the journal, Pain. (1)
The study was made up of researchers from the Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit at the McGill University Health Centre,–where Dr. Minerbi works–the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, McGill University, and Université de Montréal. The test group was 156 people. 77 of those people suffered from fibromyalgia. Some members of the control group were people who lived with or were related to the fibromyalgia group.
“Participants in the study were interviewed and gave stool, blood, saliva and urine samples,” says the McGill Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences newsletter. Their results showed that it was fibromyalgia that had the greatest impact on these particular gut bacteria. “We also saw that the severity of a patient’s symptoms was directly correlated with an increased presence or a more pronounced absence of certain bacteria,” says Dr. Minerbi. It’s “something which has never been reported before.” (1)
Implications of Gut Bacteria
The research team has not determined whether the gut microbiome was the cause of fibromyalgia or just an additional effect. They will need to test the gut bacteria of people with other chronic pain conditions to have a better answer. In the meantime, “using machine learning, our computer was able to make a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, based only on the composition of the microbiome, with an accuracy of 87 per cent,” says Emmanuel Gonzalez. He is from the Department of Human Genetics at McGill University, as well as the Canadian Center for Computational Genomics. “As we build on this first discovery with more research, we hope to improve upon this accuracy, potentially creating a step-change in diagnosis.”
The team hopes to conduct animal studies to look at any “changes in bacteria [which might] play a role in the development of the disease.” (1)
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