A prospective longitudinal study on the microbiota composition in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Background: A connection between amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and altered gut microbiota composition has previously been reported in animal models. This work is the first prospective longitudinal study addressing the microbiota composition in ALS patients and the impact of a probiotic supplementation on the gut microbiota and disease progression.

Methods: Fifty patients and 50 matched controls were enrolled. The microbial profile of stool samples from patients and controls was analyzed via PCR-Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis, and the main microbial groups quantified via qPCR. The whole microbiota was then analyzed via next generation sequencing after amplification of the V3-V4 region of 16S rDNA. Patients were then randomized to receive probiotic treatment or placebo and followed up for 6 months with ALSFRS-R, BMI, and FVC%.

Results: The results demonstrate that the gut microbiota of ALS patients is characterized by some differences with respect to controls, regardless of the disability degree. Moreover, the gut microbiota composition changes during the course of the disease as demonstrated by the significant decrease in the number of observed operational taxonomic unit during the follow-up. Interestingly, an unbalance between potentially protective microbial groups, such as Bacteroidetes, and other with potential neurotoxic or pro-inflammatory activity, such as Cyanobacteria, has been shown. The 6-month probiotic treatment influenced the gut microbial composition; however, it did not bring the biodiversity of intestinal microbiota of patients closer to that of control subjects and no influence on the progression of the disease measured by ALSFRS-R was demonstrated.

Conclusions: Our study poses the bases for larger clinical studies to characterize the microbiota changes as a novel ALS biomarker and to test new microbial strategy to ameliorate the health status of the gut.


Di Gioia D, Bozzi Cionci N, Baffoni L, Amoruso A, Pane M, Mogna L, Gaggìa F, Ausiliatrice Lucenti M, Bersano E, Cantello R, De Marchi F, Mazzini L. A prospective longitudinal study on the microbiota composition in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. BMC Med 2020; 18(1): 153.

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