In recent years, scientists have discovered a number of links between the gut microbiome — the bacteria that live in your digestive system — and various health conditions.
The potential for gut bacteria to affect health outcomes has been demonstrated in a number of studies related to diabetes — both Type 1 and Type 2. As we noted a few years ago, the type of bacteria living in people’s intestines has been repeatedly shown to help predict Type 2 diabetes.
And last year, Australian researchers found that both mice and humans with an increased genetic risk for Type 1 diabetes had a different makeup of gut bacteria from other mice or humans.
Now, a study has found that the immune system reacts differently to gut bacteria in children with Type 1 diabetes or at risk for it, compared with other children.
Specific bacteria linked to future Type 1 diabetes risk
The study, published in February 2019 in the journal Science Immunology, looked at two different groups of children. In the first group, children who had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes within 6 months were matched with children of the same age without diabetes.
The researchers examined patterns of antibodies — proteins created by the immune system designed to fight a particular substance — in the blood of each study participant. They found that antibodies to certain gut bacteria were more common in the children with recently diagnosed diabetes, while others were more common in the children without diabetes.
In the second group of children, the researchers looked at patterns of antibodies to gut bacteria in the blood, and whether these patterns could help predict future development of Type 1 diabetes. They found that certain patterns of antibody levels were predictive of developing diabetes, and correlated strongly with having a known genetic risk factor for Type 1.
Getting to know the gut
This study’s results contribute to a still-developing understanding of how the body’s response to gut bacteria affects Type 1 diabetes risk.
As mentioned in a JDRF analysis of the study, it’s particularly noteworthy that the researchers found a link between an established genetic risk for Type 1 diabetes and specific antibodies to gut bacteria. This finding directly ties the genes in question to the immune system’s response, and creates an opening for future research on the topic.
The researchers also note that based on their results, measuring levels of antibodies to gut bacteria in the blood could be a good way to evaluate the potential effectiveness of future therapies that aim to prevent Type 1 diabetes in children at high risk for the disease.
Want to learn more about recent Type 1 diabetes research? Read “Reversing Type 1 Diabetes: New Research From Boston Children’s Hospital,” “Can a Very Low-Carb-Diet Help People With Type 1 Diabetes?” and “Vaccine Leads to Lasting Improvement in Type 1 Diabetes.”