Microscopic colitis (MC) is a disease which is characterized by chronic diarrhea and an increase in the immune cells characteristic of inflammation in the colon, but an otherwise healthy looking colon based on a colonoscopy. Interestingly, it most often afflicts middle aged and elderly women, and is highly associated with smoking. Researchers in Sweden recently hypothesized that that MC was somehow related to the microbiome and designed an experiment to find out. The results of that study were published this week in the journal Gut.
The scientists sampled the microbiomes of 10 women suffering from MC and 7 healthy controls. They discovered that while the microbiomes in all the women were quite similar, there was one conspicuous difference. The women with MC had much lower levels of Akkermansia sp. (100x to 1000x lower). This genus is known to be important in healthy guts, where it breaks down the mucous lining of the gut. It is associated with thicker mucous, which is likely a healthy trait, as well as glucose metabolism.
While the number of patients was low, the connection between MC and Akkermansia sp. certainly deserves further investigation. Of course, these bacteria are only associated with the disease, and this study is in no way proof that the lack of this bug causes the disease. Diseases like colitis are very complex, and there are likely many factors involved, but studies like this are certainly a step in the right direction in showing an association with the microbiome.