Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Funded Research

From bugs to brains: the gut microbiome in paediatric multiple sclerosis

Year Awarded: 2019

Term: 3 years, 4 months

Funding Amount: $500,014

Affiliation(s): University of British Columbia

Province(s): British Columbia, Manitoba

Researcher(s): Dr. Helen Tremlett

Hot Topics: Gut Microbiome

Research Priorities: Cause of MS

Impact Goal(s): Prevent MS


  • Dr. Helen Tremlett, The University of British Columbia
  • Dr. Emmanuelle Waubant, University of California San Francisco
  • Dr. Charles Bernstein, University of Manitoba
  • Dr. Gary Van Domselaar, University of Manitoba
  • Dr. Morag Graham, University of Manitoba

Project Summary:

  • Microbial communities in our gut are essential for human health. They help digest our food, produce vitamins and boost our immune system.
  • Whether microbial communities also influence diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) is unknown.
  • The research team will:
    • Determine if there are any associations between these gut microbial communities and children presenting with MS compared to children without MS.

Project Description:

Emerging research has demonstrated that the composition of the gut microbiome – the bacteria residing in the digestive tract – in people living with MS is significantly altered compared to healthy people, but important questions about how exactly this leads to MS remain. There is an especially urgent need to study the composition of the gut microbiome in children living with MS, since the gut microbiome is thought to play a fundamental role in immune development during childhood. Children also represent an important opportunity to examine a disease very close to its actual onset. For example, unlike adults with MS, children have had fewer life exposures, such as different diets, medications, infections and so on, narrowing the search for possible triggers of MS. Dr. Tremlett’s study will be undertaken in collaboration with the Canadian Pediatric Demyelinating Disease study to gather clues about how the bacteria in the gut can influence the development of MS during the earliest stages of the disease. To date, more than 170 stool samples have been collected and stored, which will result in valuable data (microbiome-related) and a stool bank (with the appropriate ethical and security measures in place) for future access by other researchers. After all samples have been collected, they will be sent to the National Public Health Laboratory, Winnipeg for extracting and sequencing the gut microbiome in the next year.

Potential Impact: This research will shed light on the potential cause(s) of MS, as well as factors that might drive or influence the disease in those who already have MS.

Project Status: In Progress

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