Now for something complete different – 2 : Parkinson's Disease

I have been requested to look at the possibility that Parkinson’s Disease (PD) may also be a stable dysfunction gut bacteria. We know from PubMed, the biodiversity of gut bacteria decreases with age. We also read that neurological and behavior changes can be associated with variation in gut bacteria…. So the concept is worth running up the flag pole!

Doing a little searching, we find:

  • [May 2011] Helicobacter pylori is associated with Parkinson’s Ref 1,2 – it is interesting to note that this only occurred with middle-aged mice. Does not occur with younger mice.
  • There is an ongoing trial “. The investigators are studying changes in the normal population of gut flora and in intestinal permeability and their associations with early Parkinson’s Disease.”
  • [2011] Parkinson’s patients are 8 times more likely to have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
  • [2011]  Parkinson’s patients have abnormal intestinal permeability.

Buried on the internet, was a very interesting paper, “Bacterial Neurotoxicity and Parkinson’s Disease” written as a result of a grant from National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences. In summary, it states

“high prevalence of PD found in people who work in the soil or drink well water, these patients may be exposed to factors excreted by  soil bacteria”

The paper Identified two bacteria that “fit the bill”

  • Streptomyces lividans
  • Streptomyces venezuelae

This study is cited in Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders: Laboratory Management and … By Joseph J. Jankovic, Eduardo Tolosa, 2007. A further 2009 study is available on PubMed.

However, Streptomyces platensis produces lergotrile, which alleviate tremors in PD. In other words, there appear to be both friend and foe within the same family. Streptomyces avelmitilis also appears to be helpful according to a 2009 study.

One logical exploration is to examine antibiotics that kill Streptomyces. Unfortunately, this family of over 500 species is often used to produce antibiotics and are rarely associated with infections. They produce over two-thirds of the clinically useful antibiotics of natural origin.

The only recognized infections are due to:

  • Streptomyces somaliensis
  • Streptomyces sudanensis

There is a little treatment information available for other species in this family:

  • novobiocin [One study suggesting usefulness], gentamycin [no studies] and doxycycline [2011 Study]
    • Doxycycline appears to produce positive results in several studies, 1, 2. the related monocycline is an established neuroprotective.
  • Rifampicin [1989 Study] – also a neuroprotective and suggested for PD in multiple papers
  • amikacin and linezolid [2008 Study] – in this case, a brain abscess was caused by this bacteria. No studies of either with PD.

Bottom Line

Studies are in progress to determine how gut bacteria is altered. Evidence indicate that it is.  Helicobacter pylori is an easy one to test for and treat when found. There is a only one ghostly finger point at a specific bacteria family: Streptomyces, a family that is usually deemed to be very friendly and gives us many antibiotics. Of course, there may be a dark side to this family, a few species that may produce toxins that results in PD instead of unhealthy bacteria. There are a few antibiotics identified above which could help — but no human studies have been done….

Doxycycline/minocycline and rifampicin are two likely candidates on the basis of both being neuroprotectives alone.

 Doxycycline/minocycline and rifampicin are two likely candidates on the basis of both being neuroprotectives alone. Minocycline is not negatively spoken of in this 2006 News Article. Cochrane reported in 2011: “One of the trials reported a significant increase in levodopa absorption and improvement in motor symptoms when antibiotics were used to eradicate H pylori.” — it is unclear if this improvement would also been seen with PD patients are do not have H pylori.
Thus PD as an illness that may have a significant co-factor being dysfunctional gut-bacteria (possibly with Streptomyces species) appears to be a viable hypothesis. As mentioned in earlier posts, the use of Lactobacillus probiotics are unlikely to be of help.
PD are high in Iron (like CFS patients are low in B12). This may point to a specific bacteria overgrowth (or undergrowth of those that retain surplus iron) – which one(s) are significant for iron in the human gut appears to be unknown, although this1968 paper could provide some insight (or not).