Friday, 8 July 2016

Guest Post. Prof Wade on the Microbiome and MS.

The human body is heavily colonised by microorganisms including Bacteria, Archaea (single cell microbes), viruses, fungi and protozoa (single cell organisms) and are known collectively as the human microbiome. In recent years, there has been substantial interest in the role of the human microbiome in health and disease

We have recently seen two papers published on the role of the Microbiota in multiple sclerosis.

Chen J, Chia N, Kalari KR, Yao JZ, Novotna M, Soldan MM, Luckey DH, Marietta EV, Jeraldo PR, Chen X, Weinshenker BG, Rodriguez M, Kantarci OH, Nelson H, Murray JA, Mangalam AK.Multiple sclerosis patients have a distinct gut microbiota compared to healthy controls. Sci Rep. 2016 Jun;6:28484

Jangi S, Gandhi R, Cox LM, Li N, von Glehn F, Yan R, Patel B, Mazzola MA, Liu S, Glanz BL, Cook S, Tankou S, Stuart F, Melo K, Nejad P, Smith K, Topçuolu BD, Holden J, Kivisäkk P, Chitnis T, De Jager PL, Quintana FJ, Gerber GK, Bry L, Weiner HL. Alterations of the human gut microbiome in multiple sclerosis. Nat Commun. 2016 Jun 28;7:12015.

We asked Prof. William Wade if he would be willing to make some comments for you.

William Wade graduated in Biological Sciences in 1978 from the University of East Anglia. He pursued a PhD in Oral Microbiology at Cardiff Dental School and was appointed to a Lectureship there in 1987. He then moved in 1993 to the University of Bristol to take up a Senior Lectureship in Oral Microbiology, and in 1996 he was appointed Professor of Oral Microbiology at Kings College London. Since 2002 he has been an Honorary Senior Research Investigator at the Forsyth Institute, Boston, USA. In 2013 he was appointed Professor of Oral Microbiology at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London.

William Wade has been one of the pioneers in the development and characterisation of the, in particular the oral, microbiome. He is a curator of the Human Oral Microbiome Database ( which has been developed with collaborators at the Forsyth Institute in Cambridge, USA.

His current research interests are the characterisation of the composition of the human microbiome, determination of the functional roles of members of the microbiome in health and disease and the development of novel methods for the culture of the majority of the microbiome which has yet to be cultured. The development of novel prevention measures and treatments, such as probiotics, for microbiome-associated diseases is a major focus.


The body is heavily colonised by microorganisms, known collectively as the human microbiome. The microbiome has a number of health benefits: it helps us digest food, helps prevent other microbes from causing infection and is essential for the proper development of the immune system. Sometimes, however, the composition of the microbiome can change to one that is associated with disease, a condition know as dysbiosis. Whether a dysbiotic microbiome can cause disease or whether the composition of the microbiome changes because of the disease is the major question which microbiome researchers are trying to answer.

Two recent papers (1)(2) have compared the gut microbiome in individuals with multiple sclerosis with healthy controls. Both found the microbiome in MS to be different from that of controls although, interestingly, the changes in bacterial composition observed were different in the two studies. The authors suggest that MS may be associated with gut dysbiosis and that improved understanding of this relationship might lead to the development of new treatments.

These studies need to be interpreted with caution, however. Both studies investigated stool samples. It has been shown that the primary factor affecting the microbial composition of faecal samples is stool consistency (3). Since MS is known to cause gastrointestinal disturbance, it is possible that this could be the reason for the differences seen. Alternatively, there could be a number of other confounding factors such as diet or inflammation of the gut which may have affected the microbiome of the MS patients studied.

These studies included relatively small numbers of subjects. Further work on larger numbers of patients and carefully selected control subjects is needed to confirm if the gut microbiome is different in MS and whether this occurs as a result of the disease or contributes to its cause.
1.        Chen J, Chia N, Kalari KR, Yao JZ, Novotna M, Soldan MMP, et al. Multiple sclerosis patients have a distinct gut microbiota compared to healthy controls. Sci Rep [Internet]. 2016;6:28484. Available from:
2.        Jangi S, Gandhi R, Li N, Glehn F, Yan R, Melo K, et al. Alterations of the human gut microbiome in multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler J [Internet]. 2015;21(11 Suppl):168–168. Available from:
3.        Falony G, Joossens M, Vieira-Silva S, Wang J, Darzi Y, Faust K, et al. Population-level analysis of gut microbiome variation. Science [Internet]. 2016 Apr 29 [cited 2016 Jul 7];352(6285):560–4.


  1. Thank you so much for this!

    While we report news as I read some of the gut microbiome related materials it's absolutely fascinating!

    However the quick assumptions that it may have direct correlation to MS I find rather premature.

    I have excerpted the article unto MSU accordingly.

  2. I like this theme Intestinal microbiota. At 16 I had appendicitis, had to remove the appendix. I'm curious to know if it would have any influence on my intestinal flora and the own absorption of Vitamin D.


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