Probiotic bacteria may help treat anxiety, says team

PROBIOTIC bacteria could be used to treat anxiety and depress-related disorders, according to a paper published by an Irish research team.

The scientists from University College Cork (UCC) claim the bacteria have the potential to alter brain neurochemistry.

The research by Dr Javier Bravo and Professor John Cryan at the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

The pair, with collaborators from the Brain-Body Institute at McMaster University in Canada, demonstrated that mice fed with Lactobacillus rhamnosus JB-1 showed significantly fewer stress, anxiety and depression-related behaviours than those fed with just broth. Moreover, ingestion of the bacteria resulted in significantly lower levels of the stress-induced hormone, corticosterone.

Prof Cryan said: “This study identifies potential brain targets and a pathway through which certain gut organisms can alter mouse brain chemistry and behaviour.

“These findings highlight the important role that gut bacteria play in the bidirectional communication between the gut and the brain, the gut–brain axis, and opens up the intriguing opportunity of developing unique microbial-based strategies for treatment for stress-related psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression.”

The researchers also showed that regular feeding with the Lactobacillus strain caused changes in the expression of receptors for the neurotransmitter GABA in the mouse brain, which is the first time that it has been demonstrated that potential probiotics have a direct effect on brain chemistry in normal situations.

The authors established that the vagus nerve was the main relay between bacteria in the gut and the brain.

The findings highlight the role of bacteria in the communication between the gut and the brain, and suggest that certain probiotic organisms may prove to be useful therapies in stress-related psychiatric disorders.

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