Combined therapies to treat complex diseases: The role of the gut microbiota in multiple sclerosis

Laura Calvo-Barreiro, Herena Eixarch, Xavier Montalban, Carmen Espejo

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63 Citations (Scopus)


© 2017 Elsevier B.V. The commensal microbiota has emerged as an environmental risk factor for multiple sclerosis (MS). Studies in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) models have shown that the commensal microbiota is an essential player in triggering autoimmune demyelination. Likewise, the commensal microbiota modulates the host immune system, alters the integrity and function of biological barriers and has a direct effect on several types of central nervous system (CNS)-resident cells. Moreover, a characteristic gut dysbiosis has been recognized as a consistent feature during the clinical course of MS, and the MS-related microbiota is gradually being elucidated. This review highlights animal studies in which commensal microbiota modulation was tested in EAE, as well as the mechanisms of action and influence of the commensal microbiota not only in the local milieu but also in the innate and adaptive immune system and the CNS. Regarding human research, this review focuses on studies that show how the commensal microbiota might act as a pathogenic environmental risk factor by directing immune responses towards characteristic pathogenic profiles of MS. We speculate how specific microbiome signatures could be obtained and used as potential pathogenic events and biomarkers for the clinical course of MS. Finally, we review recently published and ongoing clinical trials in MS patients regarding the immunomodulatory properties exerted by some microorganisms. Because MS is a complex disease with a large variety of associated environmental risk factors, we suggest that current treatments combined with strategies that modulate the commensal microbiota would constitute a broader immunotherapeutic approach and improve the clinical outcome for MS patients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-174
JournalAutoimmunity Reviews
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • Dysbiosis
  • Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis
  • Immune regulation
  • Microbiota
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Probiotic


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