Gut Bacteria Plays a Role in Type 1 Diabetes

The microbiome and inflammatory signature differs in patients with type 1 diabetes.

Changes in gut bacteria are linked to type 1 diabetes, a condition that affects approximately 1.25 million children and adults in the United States.

In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, investigators found that inflammation and gut bacteria occurs in the digestive tract of individuals with type 1 diabetes. However, this pattern differs from individuals without diabetes, as well as those with other autoimmune conditions.

“Our findings indicate that individuals with type 1 diabetes have an inflammatory signature and microbiome that differ from what we see in people who do not have diabetes or even in those with other autoimmune conditions, such as celiac disease,” said senior author Lorenzo Piemonti, MD. “Some researchers have theorized that the gut may contribute to the development of type 1 diabetes, so it is important to understand how the disease affects the digestive system and microbiome.”

The study included 54 individuals who underwent endoscopies and biopsies of the duodenum at San Raffaele Hospital, between 2009 and 2015. The study participants either volunteered or were undergoing a diagnostic procedure to diagnose a gastrointestinal disorder.

The investigators examined the microbiome of the 54 patients, which allowed them to directly assess the gastrointestinal tract and bacteria, unlike other studies that relied on stool samples or analysis. The analysis of tissues sampled from the endoscopy produced high-resolution snapshots of the innermost layer of the gastrointestinal tract, according to the study.

The results of the study showed individuals with type 1 diabetes had significantly more signs of inflammation of the gut’s mucous membrane linked to 10 specific genes compared with healthy controls and individuals with celiac disease. Additionally, the participants with type 1 diabetes showed a distinct combination of gut bacteria that differed from the other 2 groups.

“We don’t know if type 1 diabetes’ signature effect on the gut is caused by or the result of the body’s own attacks on the pancreas,” Piemonti said. “By exploring this, we may be able to find new ways to treat the disease by targeting the unique gastrointestinal characteristics of individuals with type 1 diabetes.”