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WEBINAR REPLAY

The microbial mind: Exploring the gut-brain connection for mental well-being

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Presented by


Prof Sian Hemmings
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Vector of a woman with her gut encircled

This webinar was sponsored by Viatris in the interest of education, awareness, and support. The content and opinions expressed are entirely the speakers’ own work and not influenced by Viatris in any way. This webinar is accredited for one (1) CPD point and is intended for healthcare professionals practicing in South Africa.

Over 2000 years ago, Hippocrates recognised the pivotal role of the gut in disease, setting the stage for contemporary research on the gut microbiome. This complex ecosystem, primarily composed of bacteria, constitutes around 95% of the trillions of microbes evolving in tandem with humans. Lifestyle, stress, diet, age, and genetics influence the composition of the microbiota, predominantly residing in the gut.

The neonate microbiome's establishment, influenced by factors such as birth mode, maternal health, gestational age, and infant diet, lays the foundation for long-term health. In adults, a core microbiome comprising six to seven bacterial phyla is essential for health, but the diversity is vast due to individual differences, explained Prof Hemmings.

Link between gut microbiome and neuropsychiatric disorders

Disruptions in the gut barrier and increased permeability can lead to systemic inflammation, affecting the blood-brain barrier and contributing to neuroinflammation associated with psychiatric disorders.

Animal studies have highlighted the profound impact of the microbiome on stress responses and mental health. Key findings from these studies emphasise the microbiota's crucial role in shaping the stress response's normal development and highlight a critical window for appropriate gut colonisation.

Studies also indicate changes in the microbiota in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). Fecalibacterium prausnitzii has been identified as a potential contributor to these changes, and reductions in colonisation may lead to an improvement in symptoms.

Furthermore, limited research suggests a link between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the gut microbiome. Specific bacteria genera associated with PTSD have been identified, showing higher abundance in affected individuals, which correlate with symptom severity.

Proposing a hypothesis connecting PTSD, gut microbiota, and periodontal disease, Prof Hemmings suggested that periodontitis-induced inflammation may influence PTSD susceptibility. Early-life trauma is implicated in altering the oral microbiome, potentially leading to periodontal disease and subsequent neuropsychiatric disorders.

Behavioural changes have been observed in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) following antibiotic courses. ASD symptoms showed improvement following faecal microbiota transplants.

Possible effective interventions

Psychobiotics (live bacteria conferring mental health benefits), dietary changes, and faecal microbiota transplants have been suggested as potential effective interventions alongside pharmacotherapy for patients with neuropsychiatric disorders.

Systematic reviews have revealed promising results in patients with MDD and schizophrenia, particularly with psychobiotics containing Bifidobacterium or Lactobacillus.

Conclusion

Prof Sian Hemmings' webinar has provided a deep dive into the complex connections between the gut and the brain, offering insights that could reshape our approach to mental health.

If you missed the webinar, a replay video is available. To access the video, click here. Once you have finished watching the replay video, send an email to john.woodford@newmedia with your name and surname, the name of the webinar (The microbial mind: Exploring the gut-brain connection for mental well-being) and your MP number.

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