Microbes in the gut produce compounds that prime our immune cells to destroy harmful viruses in the brain and nervous system. Viral infections in the brain and spinal cord are thought to be a catalyst for MS.
These microbes could also protect against other CNS (central nervous system) diseases as well, such as paralysis, Parkinson's disease and stroke.
A poor diet and antibiotics compromise our gut bacteria, known as the microbiome, that makes people more susceptible to these diseases.
Researchers from the University of Utah Health tested the idea on a group of laboratory mice, some of whom had healthy gut microbes and the rest had guts that were bacteria free. Both sets were given a dose of Mouse Hepatitis Virus, which infects cells in the nervous system and produces MS-like symptoms, but only the mice with a bacteria-free gut became infected.
When those mice were then fed 'good' bacteria, they too started to produce an immune response that reversed their symptoms of paralysis and other neurological damage.
"Signals from microbes are essential to quickly clear viruses in the central nervous system and prevent damage from MS-like diseases. Our results emphasise the importance of maintaining a diverse community of bacteria in the gut," said June Round, one of the researchers.
After a course of antibiotics, it's important to 'top-up' the good bacteria with probiotics and a healthy diet, she added.