Shift In Gut Bacteria Linked to Type 1 Diabetes Prior to Disease Onset

Researchers from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital, along with those from the DIABIMMUNE Study Group have identified a correlation between changes in gut microbiota and the onset of type 1 diabetes in the largest longitudinal study of the microbiome to date. This study followed infants who were genetically predisposed to type 1 diabetes and found that onset for those who developed the disease was preceded by a drop in microbial diversity. Previous studies have been linked to changes in the microbiome to various diseases, including diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease.

The research team followed 33 infants who were genetically predisposed to type I diabetes. They regularly tested the subjects’ stool samples, collecting data on the composition of their gut microbiome from birth to age three. In the participants who developed diabetes during this period, the team observed a 25% drop in the number of distinct species present in the microbiome one year prior to the onset of the disease. In addition, this population shift included a decrease in beneficial bacteria as well as an increase in opportunistic bacteria that are known to promote inflammation. These findings indicate further evidence of a link between gut inflammation and type 1 diabetes.

This study is unique because it looked at children who are at high risk of developing type 1 diabetes and then followed what changes in the microbiome actually shift the balance toward progression of the disease.

Because the study also followed infants who did not develop diabetes, the team was additionally able to obtain a better understanding of the normal development of the microbiome during infancy. The results demonstrated that the bacteria in the gut microbiome vary greatly between individuals, but the composition of the microbiome is fairly stable within the individual over time.

Observing these patterns of the microbiome in both healthy individuals and in those progressing toward type I diabetes offers insight that may have diagnostic and therapeutic implications. Understanding how the microbiome shifts prior to the onset of disease could help practitioners identify microbial features of type I diabetes at an early stage.

In addition, by analyzing the beneficial bacteria of children with type I diabetes, we can help support the microbiome accordingly with the use of specific probiotics and antimicrobials.

As we know, many conditions need to be addressed by optimizing gut health. Proper dietary regimens provide the most effective means for returning balance and function to the gastrointestinal system. In addition, patients may greatly benefit from the use of antimicrobials, botanicals, enzymes, prebiotics, probiotics, and glutamine to optimize the gastrointestinal environment. With this approach, integrative health care practitioners can offer hope to these patients. Diagnostic considerations include a comprehensive digestive stool analysis, organic acid testing, and food antibody testing, as well as gluten sensitivity testing or elimination of gluten from the diet.