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New Telegraph Article on ME and gut health


Senior Member
West Coast USA
Wasn't sure where to post this, hope here is appropriate.



In recent years, and in collaboration with a microbiologist, Dr Henry Butt, and his team at the University of Melbourne, Prof De Meirleir has focused on bacteria in the gastro-intestinal tract. "This is an obvious place to start since 80 per cent of immune system cells are located here," he says. A healthy, functioning gut is colonised by "good" bacteria that aid digestion and contribute to our wellbeing. Many ME patients suffer from multiple intestinal symptoms, and Prof De Meirleir believes that an overgrowth of "bad" bacteria, including enterococci, streptococci and prevotella, is to blame. These bacteria are normally present in very small quantities in a healthy gut, but can initiate a sequence of events leading to the multifarious symptoms of ME if they proliferate. (This research will be published in the journal In Vivo, in July).

These "bad" bacteria produce hydrogen sulphide (H2S)– a gas naturally occurring in the body, where it has several functions – in minute quantities. However, in larger quantities, it is a poisonous gas that suppresses the immune system, and damages the nervous system, according to Prof De Meirleir. (Hydrogen sulphide is produced by some animals in preparation for hibernation because it "shuts down" the body which, in effect, is what occurs in ME.) In addition, Prof De Meirleir described how he believes the gas reacts with metals, including mercury, introduced in minute amounts as contaminants in food. The form of mercury produced after reacting with hydrogen sulphide also disrupts the normal production of energy (known as the Krebs Cycle) by individual cells, and this, he says, would explain the energy shortfall experienced by ME patients.

Normal cellular functioning is inhibited and, over time, this generates damaging free radicals, highly reactive molecules that distort the structure of key proteins, such as enzymes and hormones, necessary for chemical reactions. This results in what Prof De Meirleir calls "aberrant" proteins (or prions), which lead to further symptoms as the body is increasingly compromised, and which he says may play a role in the transmissibility of ME.

The urine test, developed by Prof De Meirleir and Dr Roelant in their privately funded research, detects the presence of hydrogen sulphite metabolites, which they say confirm the presence of abnormal quantities of hydrogen sulphide-producing bacteria. The intensity of the colour change in the urine indicates the severity of the disease progression.

Not every ME patient progresses to its most severe form, says Prof De Meirleir, but the varying symptoms can all be explained by this proposed mechanism for the disease. In the worst cases of ME, he says it can be shown that there is an almost complete eradication of "good" bacteria (such as E. coli), the presence of a high number of "bad" bacteria in stools, metal deposits in tissues, and the presence of aberrant proteins in saliva. "What we have shown is that these patients have an organic disease involving one of the most toxic substances [H2S] that exist," he says.

So what causes the proliferation of harmful bacteria in the first place? There are, he says, many potential triggers ranging from food- borne bacterial (eg salmonella) infections, viruses, and toxins, or mental stress. He says many ME sufferers have a history of gut disorders including gluten and lactose intolerance, which may predispose them to colonisation by enterococci and streptococci.
Edit: Sasha beat me on the date.

I'm a bit suspicious of some of this stuff, but not well informed enough to really judge. I wouldn't go this route myself without being sure there was some really solid evidence to support it.