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Parkinson's: medication has more powerful effect on intestinal flora than originally thought

Comprehensive study carried out at Furtwangen University

Parkinson's disease is characterised by a progressive loss of nerve cells. The disease is still incurable. The exact causes of the disease are still unclear and there is no causal treatment for the lack of dopamine in the brain resulting from the death of nerve cells. Researchers are trying to solve the Parkinson's puzzle. Now a scientific study has been published which is dedicated to a particular aspect of this puzzle: the intestinal flora of Parkinson's patients treated with particular medication.

"What is the influence of the disease, and what the influence of the medication, on the microbiome of the intestines? "That was our initial question," explains Prof. Dr. Markus Egert, who teaches on the Schwenningen Campus of Furtwangen University. Until now it has not been clear whether changes in the intestinal flora are a result of the disease, or a cause.

Through personalised healthcare, the individual effects of disease and medication have been repeatedly investigated. What makes Parkinson's so suitable for an exemplary study? The fact that two drugs are prinicipally used, namely Levodopa and Entacapon. The study shows that the intestinal flora of patients who are treated with one of these two drugs show significant changes.

There are studies from the USA and Scandinavia on the gut biome in Parkinson's patients. However, due to multiple influencing factors, these are not necessarily applicable to central Europe. Now a study has been carried out on patients living in Germany, who have received different treatments. "We sequenced their fecal flora and examined it for bacteria. In the process we analysed between 70,000 and 400,000 bacterial DNA sequences per sample," explained Markus Egert. "Not long ago a new theory caused an uproar: that the intestinal tract and the intestinal microbiome could play an important, but little-understood role in the cause of Parkinson's disease. Our study can certainly contribute to an explanation of this role and in the medium-term can help to establish microbial fecal analysis as a new component in the diagnosis of Parkinson's."

The study was carried out by a research team from the Universities of Applied Sciences in Furtwangen and Kaiserslautern, the Universities of Gießen and Saarland, and the MVZ Institute for Micro-ecology, Herborn. It was published in the Nature Partner Journal „npj Parkinson's Disease“ under the title "Effect of Parkinson’s disease and related medications on the composition of the fecal bacterial microbiota”.