Do I qualify for the International MS Microbiome Study (iMSMS)?
Please contact us if you have a genetically unrelated, household control (spouses, roommates, significant others, etc.), and are:
• Confirmed with a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) or Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS)
• Free of other autoimmune disorders (other than Multiple Sclerosis)
• Free of gastrointestinal disorders (ex. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, Diverticulitis)
• Not currently taking preventative oral antibiotics
What is this study?
This is the first international, large-scale, microbiome research study of multiple sclerosis. We will recruit 2,000 adult volunteers with any form of MS and 2,000 healthy household companions from the USA, UK and Argentina. Each volunteer will be asked to complete a food questionnaire and provide blood and stool samples that will be sent to a central laboratory for analysis.
What causes multiple sclerosis?
MS is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. While the genetic factors are now quite well documented, exactly how the environment influences our immune system has been difficult to pinpoint. Composed of billions of microorganisms, the human gut microbiota is right at the interface between our immune system and the outside environment, thus providing an ideal material to answer this question.
How will we do it?
All of us harbor billions of bacteria in our gut. This is normal and healthy. However the exact composition of those bacteria may influence our risk of getting MS. This study will use the latest advances in DNA sequencing technology and computer-assisted analysis to identify bacterial populations that are more abundant or less abundant in MS patients.
Why study bacteria?
Bacteria are a big part of us! In fact our bodies contain ten times more bacterial cells than human cells and the bacterial gene pool (known as the “microbiome”) is 150 times larger than our own human gene pool. These bacteria are not just bystanders—they perform functions that are essential to our survival and well-being. However if the bacterial community living in our gut is disrupted, diseases can occur.
What can be done with this information?
One of the major determinants of our gut microbiota is our diet. While eating a healthy diet is always beneficial, it is also possible to alter our gut microbiota by altering what we eat. However modulation of specific microbes can only be achieved if their identity is revealed. The aim of this study is to identify which microbes are needed to restore a healthy balance and which may be dangerous and therefore need to be avoided or removed. Understanding this balance and how to control it may lead to a new kind of MS treatment based on probiotics (foods containing live bacteria that can be beneficial), prebiotics (to encourage the growth of existing beneficial bacteria), and antibiotics (to eliminate unwanted bacteria).