Researchers Pinpoint ‘Depressing’ Gut Microbe With Potential for Psychobiotic Drugs

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Summary: Examining the gut microbiome of those with major depressive disorder, researchers identify the presence of the bacteria Faecalibacterium prausnitzii as being responsible for the functional discrepancies between healthy individuals and those with MDD.

In a three-year study, researchers from Skoltech, Vavilov Institute of General Genetics of RAS, the Moscow-based Mental-Health Clinic No. 1 named after N.A. Alexeev and Serbsky Federal Medical Research Center of Psychiatry and Narcology have examined how gut microbes in patients with a major depressive disorder are different from those in mentally healthy people.

After analyzing all genes present in the gut microbiome, the team pinpointed a particular bacterium—Faecalibacterium prausnitzii—responsible for the largest functional discrepancy between the healthy and the depressed datasets.

The findings, which hold promise for express mental health diagnostics and psychobiotic medications, are reported in Biomedicines.

“If you know which genes are represented to a lesser or greater extent in depressive patients compared with the healthy population, and which bacteria are responsible for this, you can attempt to do two things,” the study’s lead author, Skoltech Bio research intern Alexey Kovtun, commented.

“First, you can use the analysis of fecal microbiota as a supplementary tool when diagnosing the mental disorder. Second, you can try to develop drugs that would ‘normalize’ gut microbiome in depressed patients.”

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