A Role for a Leaky Gut and the Intestinal Microbiota in the Pathophysiology of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis


From 2007 the charity has focused on a policy of campaigning for better education and for high-quality biomedical research into ME. To this end the charity has begun funding leading edge biomedical research into ME.

The UK Gut Microbiota Research project aims to find whether there is evidence of a leaky gut in ME patients. This is the foundation research project in our proposal for a research and development facility which could lead to a UK Centre of Excellence for ME [1].

The Team

The project is led by Professor Simon Carding of the Institute of Food Research/University of East Anglia.
Dr Amolak Bansal of Epsom and St. Helier NHS Trust is in the team and providing the patient cohort for the project.

PhD student Daniel Vipond is performing the work.
In addition medical students from the UEA are intercalating and assisting in this research.
Navena Navaneetharaja and Bharat Harbham are assisting Daniel. Navena wil spend time with Professor Maureen Hanson at Cornell University in New York. Bharat will spend time with Professor Angela Vincent at Oxford University.

Project Description

The Project 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.


Funding is from Invest in ME Research - and much was raised by our supporters - the Let's Do It For ME Team, patients, carers, friends.

Our donation options are here Help Us Fund Biomedical Research into ME


Last Update September 2018