A new study in the journal Pain has found correlations between alterations in the gut microbiome and Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia, which is thought to be related to ME/CFS, is mostly characterized by widespread chronic pain, but is also marked by symptoms that include fatigue, impaired sleep, and cognitive difficulties. Fibromyalgia, like ME/CFS, has a cause of unknown origin, has no clear diagnostic tests, and most often affects women.
The research team at McGill University in Montreal, QC used 16S rRNA gene amplification and whole genome sequencing to analyze the gut microbiome in 77 women with Fibromyalgia and 79 healthy women, and found that the overall population structure and diversity was similar in the two subject groups, but that 19 species of bacteria were present in either greater or lesser amounts in Fibromyalgia patients compared to healthy controls. They used Artificial Intelligence (AI) to confirm that factors like diet, physical activity, or medication, which are known to affect the gut microbiome, were not causing the changes seen in Fibromyalgia patients, but that the amount of certain bacterial species present was associated with the severity of several Fibromyalgia symptoms, such as pain intensity and fatigue. Interestingly, one of the species that was present in lower amount in Fibromyalgia patients, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, is one of the most abundant and well-studied butyrate-producing species present in the human gut microbiome, and has also been reported to have anti-inflammatory properties.
The team hopes that their research can lead to a diagnostic tool, and author Emmanuel Gonzalez says that, “by using machine learning, our computer was able to make a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, based only on the composition of the microbiome, with an accuracy of 87 percent. As we build on this first discovery with more research, we hope to improve upon this accuracy, potentially creating a step-change in diagnosis.”