Recent studies [Fluge et al (2011) Plos ONE 6:e26358] point to a link between autoimmunity and myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME or ME/CFS).
Autoimmune reactions lead to inflammation, increased permeability of blood vessels and migration of lymphocytes to sites of injury. Microglia within the brain can be primed during chronic inflammatory diseases, but can then induce inflammation in the brain when they are triggered by a second inflammatory challenge such as a systemic microbial infection. This raises the possibility that the damaging neuro-inflammation seen during ME may be triggered by systemic infections.
The gastrointestinal tract contains a microbiota consisting of a vast number of bacteria and viruses. The microbiota can influence intestinal barrier function and host defence against microbial challenge. Changes in the microbiota can cause local and systemic chronic inflammation. This project will determine if alterations in intestinal barrier function and/or microbiota exist in ME patients, and whether microbe-driven inflammatory responses can provide an explanation for the pathophysiology of ME.
The studentship will be based in the Norwich Medical School and the Institute for Food Research at Norwich Research Park. The student will analyse serum samples from patients with ME for integrity of intestinal barrier function. Faecal samples from patients will be analysed by high throughput pyrosequencing and appropriate bioinformatics to profile the microbiota in terms of bacteria and virus populations. Parallel studies will assess microbiota metabolism by LC/MS/NMR analysis by the IFR Metabolomics Partnership.
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