Role of gut microbiota studied in pregnant women with lupus

New research findings suggest that gut microbiota may regulate lupus flares in pregnant women, presenting a therapeutic target.

A team of researchers in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology (DBSP) at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, US has explored the possible role of gut microbiota in the link between pregnancy and the exacerbation of lupus

The research was undertaken to understand the higher risk of severe flares and help women with lupus experience healthy pregnancies and successful outcomes, by improving therapeutic approaches. 

The research team examined the changes of gut microbiota structure with or without the experience of pregnancy, as well as the different responses of the immune system to the same microbiota-modulating strategies in unaffected versus postpartum lupus-prone mice.

The results indicate that the strategies benefitting the unaffected mice actually worsened lupus disease in postpartum mice.

“Our findings suggest that the gut microbiota may regulate lupus flares in pregnant women,” said Xin M Luo, associate professor of immunology in DBSP. “Our work helps to uncover the mechanisms underlying pregnancy-induced disease flares and offers the possibility of developing new therapeutic strategies for pregnant women with lupus.

…the gut microbiota may regulate lupus flares in pregnant women”

“For patients with autoimmune lupus, diet and probiotics are the two relatively easy and acceptable approaches that can potentially improve disease management through modulating the gut microbiota,” Luo continued. “But it is challenging to achieve this goal due to the complexity of the disease pathologies, the complexity of gut microbiota and the differences of gut microbiota communities among individuals.”

For its next steps, the research team plans to investigate the interaction between sex hormones and gut microbiota in regulating lupus pathogenesis. 

Future investigations will focus on lupus nephritis, the leading cause of mortality in lupus patients, to further delineate the role of gut microbiota in the link between pregnancy and exacerbated lupus, said Luo.

The research was published in the online journal Microbiome.

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