New research suggests a significant link between the gut, its bacterial population and mental health. For the first time, scientists have explored this connection in humans and have identified the potential reasons for this.

Two types of bacteria; Coprococcus and Dialister are depleted in people with depression, according to researchers in Nature Microbiology. The study also revealed that many gut bacteria can produce compounds that act on the nervous system. If this is confirmed with further investigation, the results could lead to a deeper understanding of the gut-brain link and could even open new avenues for treatment of mental illness.

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The Study

Scientists analysed faecal microbiome data in conjunction with diagnosis of depression, 1,054 people took part in the Flemish Gut Flora Project.

During the analysis, the research team presented that the two types of bacteria; Coprococcus and Dialister were absent from the guts of people diagnosed with depression. This remained the case in those who take antidepressant medication.

The scientists confirmed the findings in another study where 1,063 people enrolled in LifeLinesDEEP, which collected data on the gut microbiota, the same group of individuals were treated for clinical depression at the University Hospitals Leuven.

The studies co-author Prof. Jeroen Raes states, “The notion that microbial metabolites can interact with our brain- and thus behaviours and feelings is intriguing, but gut microbiome-brain communication has mostly been explored in animal models, with human research lagging behind.”

In the future, Prof. Reas and his research team aim to confirm these results through further experiments. They are already preparing to analyse upcoming samples collected via the Flemish Gut Flora Project.

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