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The gut microbiome composition associates with bipolar disorder and illness severity

January 26, 2017

Prechter Fund scientist Simon J. Evans, Ph.D.,is interested in researching how diet plays a role in psychiatric illness. The gut microbiome is the collection of bacteria and other microbes that inhabit our intestines to aid us with digestive processes. It is estimated that there are 2-10 times more bacterial cells in the human body than there are human cells and they have a big role to play in our metabolism. Recent studies have also implicated the gut microbiome as an important factor in brain function and behavior, and potentially in psychiatric illness. One method to evaluate the types and amounts of microbes that live in the gut microbiome is to extract bacterial DNA from a stool sample to analyze which bacteria are there and in what relative amounts.

In his research, Dr. Evans used this extraction technique to evaluate the gut microbial community of individuals with bipolar disorder and control individuals, and reported two main findings. First, the composition of the bacterial communities from individuals with bipolar disorder was significantly different from communities for controls. This may be due to medications, dietary differences or other factors relevant to the disorder that remain to be determined. Second, individuals with bipolar disorder that had more of specific types of bacteria reported better sleep, lower depression, lower anxiety and better physical health. This study is the first reported analysis of specific differences in the gut microbiome between bipolar individuals and controls and the first to associate specific bacteria with better clinical outcomes in bipolar patients.

Read more about Dr. Evans here.

Find the full list of publications from our research team here.