Short-chain fatty acids and intestinal inflammation in multiple sclerosis: modulation of female susceptibility by microbial products?
Background Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune-mediated disease of the central nervous system. Experimental data suggest a role of intestinal microbiota and microbial products such as short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in the pathogenesis of MS. A recent clinical study reported beneficial effects (mediated by immunomodulatory mechanisms) after oral administration of the SCFA propionate in MS patients. Based on available evidence, we investigated whether SCFAs and the fecal inflammation marker
... inflammation marker calprotectin are altered in MS. Methods 76 subjects (41 patients with relapsing–remitting MS and 35 age-matched controls) were investigated in this case–control study. All subjects underwent clinical assessment with established clinical scales and provided fecal samples for a quantitative analysis of fecal SCFA and fecal calprotectin concentrations. Fecal markers were compared between MS patients and controls, and were analyzed for an association with demographic as well as clinical parameters. Results Median fecal calprotectin concentrations were within normal range in both groups without any group-specific differences. Fecal SCFA concentrations showed a non-significant reduction in MS patients compared to healthy subjects. Female subjects showed significantly reduced SCFA concentrations compared to male subjects. Conclusions In our cohort of MS patients, we found no evidence of an active intestinal inflammation. Yet, the vast majority of the investigated MS patients was under immunotherapy which might have affected the outcome measures. The sex-associated difference in fecal SCFA concentrations might at least partially explain female predominance in MS. Large-scale longitudinal studies including drug-naïve MS patients are required to determine the role of SCFAs in MS and to distinguish between disease-immanent effects and those caused by the therapeutic regime.