The gut microbiome-related metabolic potential of patients with pediatric-onset multiple sclerosis (MS) is different than that of controls, according to a new study published in Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders. For example, the breakdown of lipopolysaccharide molecules is higher, but resistant starch metabolism is lower.

To examine the gut microbiome’s metabolic potential in this group of patients, a team of researchers led by Helen Tremlett, PhD, conducted a study on 17 people with MS and 20 controls. The researchers estimated the participants’ relative abundances and turnover scores of individual microbial metabolites as well as the composition and diversity of carbohydrate-active enzymes using gut metagenome gene abundances derived from their stool.

“Studying MS in children and adolescents allows one to investigate the gut microbiome close to the actual onset of MS, with potentially fewer confounders,” the researchers wrote, explaining the reason why they conducted their study in these patients.

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The results showed that the relative abundance of metabolites was not different between people with MS and controls. However, there was a difference in terms of turnover scores. 

The results also showed that people with MS had a greater potential to metabolize lipopolysaccharides than the controls. However, the potential to metabolize peptidoglycan molecules and starch was lower. 

Finally, even though the diversity of the carbohydrate-active enzymes was similar between people with MS and controls, the number of starch-degrading subfamilies was lower in patients with MS than in controls. This was also the case in MS patients who were previously treated with disease-modifying drugs compared to those who were never exposed to these drugs.

Read more about disease-modifying therapies for MS

“This study provides unique insights into the functional potential of the MS gut microbiome,” the researchers wrote. “Ultimately, this study advances the understanding of the metabolic potential of the MS gut microbiome.”

The gut microbiome is thought to play an important role in the immune and nervous systems of the host. Understanding its potential role in MS could help develop potential new therapies for the disease.


Mirza AI, Zhu F, Knox N, et al. The metabolic potential of the paediatric-onset multiple sclerosis gut microbiome. Mult Scler Relat Disord. Published online April 23, 2022. doi:10.1016/j.msard.2022.103829