A new study from Yale University has discovered that a certain type of gut bacteria can migrate from the gut to other parts of the body, triggering autoimmune diseases. The research revealed that certain autoimmune conditions, such as autoimmune liver disease and systemic lupus, could potentially be treated with an antibiotic or vaccine that attacks the specific bacteria.

A huge amount of recent research has been uncovering the dramatic impact our gut microbiome has on our entire body. From modulating gene activity that can lead to type 1 diabetes to producing chemical molecules that can protect against cancer, it is becoming increasingly clear that our overall well-being is powerfully linked to the massive population of bacteria that reside in our gut.

Even more striking is the growing body of research examining how our gut bacteria influence diseases outside of our gut, particularly in relation to regulating immune system responses. The new Yale study set out to understand the connection between gut bacteria and certain autoimmune diseases.

It was discovered that a bacterium called Enterococcus gallinarum was able to spontaneously translocate from the gut to several other organs, including the liver, spleen and lymph nodes. Using mice engineered to be genetically susceptible to autoimmune diseases, the researchers identified the bacteria inducing the production of inflammation and specific antibodies known to be autoimmune promoting factors.

Suppressing growth of the bacteria using either antibiotics or a vaccine was found to reduce the autoimmune symptoms being generated. It was also confirmed that the same bacteria has been found in the liver of patients with autoimmune disease.

The research offers a fascinating new pathway to potentially treat a variety of autoimmune diseases that could have bacterial origins. Further study on Enterococcus gallinarum and its effects on several autoimmune diseases are underway.

The research was published in the journal Science.