PERSIMUNE examines how the gut flora is affected in patients with suppressed immune systems

14. October 2019

Researchers from the Center of Excellence PERSIMUNE at Rigshospitalet will examine how the gut flora is affected in patients with suppressed immune systems caused by disease. The examination will use 1,200 feces samples as a point of departure, and the researchers will analyze and compare bacteria and changes in the gut flora across a series of different diseases.

Magnified image of bacteria seen through a microscope.
Magnified image of bacteria seen through a microscope. Photo: The Lundbeck Foundation

Researchers from the DNRF’s Center for Personalized Medicine of Infectious Complications in Immune Deficiency (PERSIMUNE) at Rigshospitalet, Denmark, will examine the effects of a suppressed immune system by outlining the gut flora in patients based on feces samples. In their attempt to understand how the gut flora is affected by a suppressed immune system, the researchers will examine 1,200 samples from approximately 750 patients with different illnesses. Here, the research team will compare potential bacterial changes to identify whether these changes are repeated across different illnesses.

“Our overriding research question is: ‘What happens to the gut bacteria – that is, how is the gut flora affected – when a person’s immune system comes under pressure’? We want to examine this across a range of the diseases we deal with here at PERSIMUNE, for instance, to find out whether the changes to gut flora we see when the immune system is compromised are common to all of the diseases and therefore can be considered to be more general in nature,” said Emma Elizabeth Ilett, a doctor and Ph.D. student funded by the Lundbeck Foundation at PERSIMUNE.

The researchers from PERSIMUNE will study feces samples from patients with bone marrow transplantations as a part of the examination of the connection between the gut flora and the suppression of the immune system.

”When we perform a bone marrow transplant — for instance. to treat certain types of leukemia — we have to suppress the patient’s own immune system before he or she can receive the donor cells. This is a fairly simple procedure for some patients, and these patients may benefit from a bone marrow transplant. However, other patients experience serious complications when undergoing both immunosuppression and the treatment itself. We don’t actually know why this is, but we have a suspicion that the gut flora may play some role here. This is one of the questions we’ll be looking at in more detail,” said Ilett.

The human gut flora and its influence on our health is a research field that has received increased attention in recent years. This is mainly because new and improved tools for DNA analysis have been developed over the last couple of years. This development made it possible for researchers to gain better insight into the enormous complexity that characterizes the human gut flora.

Read more about the study of the gut flora in patients with suppressed immune systems in a press release from the Lundbeck Foundation here