Identifying an Additional Risk for Sporadic Parkinson’s Disease in the Gut Microbiome

Posted December 9, 2020

Haydeh Payami, Ph.D. and David Standaert, M.D./Ph.D., University of Alabama Birmingham

Dr. David Standaert and Dr. Haydeh Payami Dr. David Standaert and Dr. Haydeh Payami
Dr. Payami Figure Correlation network analysis mapped PD-associated genera to three polymicrobial clusters shown in gray, and the 15 PD-associated genera highlighted in blue (if increased in PD) or red (if decreased in PD).1

It is known that the identified genetic and environmental risk factors for development of sporadic PD are not sufficient to explain development of the condition. It is therefore important to identify other risks that impact disease development. Dr. Haydeh Payami and Dr. David Standaert at the University of Alabama, Birmingham are investigating the effect of changes in the gut microbiome on PD risk in partnered studies funded through CDMRP’s Parkinson’s portfolio (awards W81XWH1810508 and W81XWH1810509), title: “Interactions of Gut Microbiome, Genetic Susceptibility, and Environmental Factors in Parkinson’s Disease.” Prior studies indicated that the microbiome, i.e., the population of microorganisms that inhabit the intestine, influence both health and disease. Studies also show that the gut microbiome in PD patients is different from that in non-PD individuals. Three clusters of microorganisms have been identified in persons with PD: increased opportunistic pathogens, reduced numbers of microbes that produce short-chain fatty acids, and increased numbers of carbohydrate-metabolizing probiotic microbes. The association of the altered microbiome with PD patients is not proof of a mechanistic effect of the microbiome changes and PD risk, but it is an important area of investigation. The intent of the current study is to determine the role and mechanism of an altered microbiome on PD risk and development. More specifically Drs. Payami and Standaert intend to identify the specific species altered in postural instability, freezing of gait, and treatment-associated dystonia. Success in the project will provide not only important information on the risk for development of PD from deleterious changes in the gut microbiome, but may also provide new PD treatments.


1 Wallen ZD, Appah M, Dean MN, Sesler CL, Factor SA, Molho E, Zabetian CP, Standaert DG, and Payami H. 2020. Characterizing dysbiosis of gut microbiome in PD: Evidence for overabundance of opportunistic pathogens. npj Parkinson’s Disease. 6:11.

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