New Harvard Study Suggests Probiotics Could Be Viable Alternative Therapy For MS

A new study out of the Harvard Medical School suggests probiotics might be a good alternative therapy for multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. This new research also proves that these “good” bacteria can survive MS patients’ stomach acid and significantly reduce inflammation in the gut.

22 people took part in this tiny study. Nine of these study participants suffered from MS.

All participants were required to visit the hospital three different times during throughout a period of five months. At each check-up, doctors examined samples of each patient’s blood and stool. Doctors also took detailed brain scans and DNA swabs of every patient.

The first hospital visit was taken before patients went on the probiotic supplement. After two months of taking probiotics, doctors performed their second test. Lastly, study authors told patients to stop taking the probiotics and invited them back for a third checkup three months later.

The specific probiotic formula used in this study is called Visbiome, better known on the market as VSL#3. While there is an over-the-counter version of VSL#3 available, doctors chose to use the stronger prescription-grade VSL#3 in this study.

Amazingly, researchers said it was difficult to tell the difference between the guts of the control group and the MS group as they were taking probiotic supplements. They also found that MS patients had less overall inflammation while on Visbiome.

This study proves probiotics can survive and thrive in the gut microbiome of MS patients. While the results from this study are promising, Harvard researchers now want to conduct a larger clinical trial to learn more about how probiotics can help MS patients.

Stephanie Tankou, who works as a research fellow in the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was the lead author of this study. In her previous work, Dr. Tankou discovered that MS patients’ have extremely different gut flora to non-MS patients.

Researchers involved in Dr. Tankou’s previous work found that MS patients tend to have “bad” bacterial strains like Methanobrevibacter and Akkermansia in their guts. These two bacterial strains are known to cause severe inflammation throughout the body.

Both the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases and Teva Neuroscience Inc. provided funding for Dr. Tankou’s work. This study was published in Vol. 24, Issue 1, of Sage Journals under the title, “Investigation of probiotics in multiple sclerosis.”