Gut Bacteria Drives Autoimmune Diseases

Summary: A new study reveals E. gallinarum, a intestinal bacteria, can trigger autoimmune disease. Researchers say the autoimmune activation can be suppressed by a vaccine designed to target the bacteria, and with the help of antibiotics.

Source: Yale.

Bacteria found in the small intestines of mice and humans can travel to other organs and trigger an autoimmune response, according to a new Yale study. The researchers also found that the autoimmune reaction can be suppressed with an antibiotic or vaccine designed to target the bacteria, they said.

The findings, published in Science, suggest promising new approaches for treating chronic autoimmune conditions, including systemic lupus and autoimmune liver disease, the researchers said.

Gut bacteria have been linked to a range of diseases, including autoimmune conditions characterized by immune system attack of healthy tissue. To shed light on this link, a Yale research team focused on Enterococcus gallinarum, a bacterium they discovered is able to spontaneously “translocate” outside of the gut to lymph nodes, the liver, and spleen.

In models of genetically susceptible mice, the researchers observed that in tissues outside the gut, E. gallinarum initiated the production of auto-antibodies and inflammation — hallmarks of the autoimmune response. They confirmed the same mechanism of inflammation in cultured liver cells of healthy people, and the presence of this bacterium in livers of patients with autoimmune disease.

Through further experiments, the research team found that they could suppress autoimmunity in mice with an antibiotic or a vaccine aimed at E. gallinarum. With either approach, the researchers were able to suppress growth of the bacterium in the tissues and blunt its effects on the immune system.

“When we blocked the pathway leading to inflammation, we could reverse the effect of this bug on autoimmunity,” said senior author Martin Kriegel, M.D.

“The vaccine against E. gallinarum was a specific approach, as vaccinations against other bacteria we investigated did not prevent mortality and autoimmunity,” he noted. The vaccine was delivered through injection in muscle to avoid targeting other bacteria that reside in the gut.

gut bacteria
Orange dots represent the gut bacterium E. gallinarum in liver tissue. image is credited to Yale.

While Kriegel and his colleagues plan further research on E. gallinarum and its mechanisms, the findings have relevance for systemic lupus and autoimmune liver disease, they said.

“Treatment with an antibiotic and other approaches such as vaccination are promising ways to improve the lives of patients with autoimmune disease,” he said.

About this neuroscience research article

Other authors are S. Manfredo-Vieira, M. Hiltensperger, V. Kumar, D. Zegarra-Ruiz, C. Dehner, N. Khan, F.R.C. Costa, E. Tiniakou, T. Greiling, W. Ruff, A. Barbieri, C. Kriegel, S.S. Mehta, J.R. Knight, D. Jain, and A.L. Goodman.

S. Manfredo-Vieira and M.A. Kriegel hold a patent related to this discovery for treating autoimmune diseases by targeting gut bacteria.

Funding: This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Yale Rheumatic Diseases Research Core, the Yale Liver Center, Women’s Health Research at Yale, the O’Brien Center at Yale, the Arthritis National Research Foundation, the Arthritis Foundation, and the Lupus Research Alliance.

Source: Ziba Kashef – Yale
Publisher: Organized by
Image Source: image is credited to Yale.
Original Research: Abstract in Science.

Cite This Article

[cbtabs][cbtab title=”MLA”]Yale “Gut Bacteria Drives Autoimmune Diseases.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 11 March 2018.
<>.[/cbtab][cbtab title=”APA”]Yale (2018, March 11). Gut Bacteria Drives Autoimmune Diseases. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved March 11, 2018 from[/cbtab][cbtab title=”Chicago”]Yale “Gut Bacteria Drives Autoimmune Diseases.” (accessed March 11, 2018).[/cbtab][/cbtabs]


Translocation of a gut pathobiont drives autoimmunity in mice and humans

Despite multiple associations between the microbiota and immune diseases, their role in autoimmunity is poorly understood. We found that translocation of a gut pathobiont, Enterococcus gallinarum, to the liver and other systemic tissues triggers autoimmune responses in a genetic background predisposing to autoimmunity. Antibiotic treatment prevented mortality in this model, suppressed growth of E. gallinarum in tissues, and eliminated pathogenic autoantibodies and T cells. Hepatocyte–E. gallinarum cocultures induced autoimmune-promoting factors. Pathobiont translocation in monocolonized and autoimmune-prone mice induced autoantibodies and caused mortality, which could be prevented by an intramuscular vaccine targeting the pathobiont. E. gallinarum–specific DNA was recovered from liver biopsies of autoimmune patients, and cocultures with human hepatocytes replicated the murine findings; hence, similar processes apparently occur in susceptible humans. These discoveries show that a gut pathobiont can translocate and promote autoimmunity in genetically predisposed hosts.

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  1. It IS exciting news but is the vaccine available currently? could my DR. administer it now?

  2. This is really exciting! I may be adding 2+2 and making 6 but the observation (as a Psychotherapist) that sustained stress/trauma are implicated in the development of autoimmune problems leads me to wonder if gut bacteria form part of the causal chain. Stress affects the gut environment and hence gut bacteria, which damage the immune system. Work to influence the balance of the gut biome, although challenging, might be enormously useful in addressing a range of diseases.

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