Thursday, January 01, 2015

Really shameful overselling the microbiome from the American Society for Microbiology regarding lupus

Well, this press release is from October:Study Suggests Altering Gut Bacteria Might Mitigate Lupus But I just discovered it and it definitely deserves an award.  An Overselling the Microbiome Award.  The PR, sadly and amazingly from the American Society for Microbiology which should know better, discusses a paper from the ASM Published journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.  The PR does an OK job discussing what was in the paper - a study of the microbiome in mice including those that are a model for lupus.  The researchers characterized the microbiome is mice with and without the lupus model disease and also compared over time and between sexes.  And they found some interesting correlates of microbial patterns that are found during flare ups of lupus for example and also in drug induced worsening of symptoms.  But they never showed ANY causal connection between any of the mcirobes and the lupus like disease.  And the never showed ANY benefit of treating the lupus-like symptoms in the mice.  Yet amazingly they go over board in making such claims including
No - the study did not suggest that at all.  The authors suggested that, yes.  And the study is consistent with that.  But it is also consistent with altering gut bacteria having NO EFFECT on lupus.  So this title is simply deceptive.

In the text other statements are like this:
These results suggest that the gut bacteria may contribute to lupus.
Stunningly, the PR includes some really inappropriate comments including:
Nonetheless, Luo suggests that people with lupus should eat Lactobacillus-containing probiotics, such as live culture yogurts, to reduce lupus flares.
Seriously?  Shame on ASM for allowing this garbage to be in the PR. No evidence at all is presented that this is helpful.

Also in the PR:
More generally, "The use of probiotics, prebiotics, and antibiotics has the potential to alter microbiota dysbiosis, which in turn could improve lupus symptoms," says co-principal investigator Husen Zhang. Ultimately, says Luo, fecal transplant might prove valuable as a treatment for lupus.
Again, shame on ASM.  No evidence is presented for this either.

And then the PR ends with
"We were inspired in part to perform this research by a study on type 1 diabetes, which found that that disease is dependent on gut microbiota," says Zhang. "Like type 1 diabetes, lupus is an autoimmune disease that is even more prevalent [than type 1 diabetes] in women."
What?  I know of no research that shows that type 1 diabetes is dependent on gut microbiota.  I really don't even know what to say here.

This is one of the worst Press Releases I have ever seen in terms of misleading statements about microbiomes.  And ASM should be embarassed about it.  And ASM should retract it.  And ASM should never ever put out something like this again.  And for this, I am awarding a coveted "Overselling the Microbiome Award" to ASM for putting out this inappropriate press release.  If any with lupus goes out and gets even remotely worse from taking such probiotics, prebiotics, or antibiotics, ASM will bear some of the responsibility for their problems.  Shameful.

UPDATE 1: Jan 2, 2015

I did some searching for "probiotics" and "lupus" and found some much more tempered claims from other places. For example in "Lupus Studies Point to Gut Microbes, Epigenetics"
 "The long-standing anecdotal patient reports of certain diets worsening or improving flares might be more real than we thought. They should be studied more systematically, now that we know that almost any dietary component acts on the gut microbiota, [which] in turn has profound effects on the immune system," Dr. Kriegel said. He also warned that patients should not assume that the various "probiotic" products now available to consumers would have a beneficial effect in lupus. "Probiotics could theoretically even worsen a disease state, since it is possible that physiologic immune responses against benign commensals could fuel autoimmune responses via cross-reactivity (as we hypothesize) or other mechanisms," he said.
Dr. Kriegel concluded, "I think the best will be to wait until we have a better understanding of which commensals or commensal-derived products might be driving which autoimmune disease and then target those with a diet that is known to modulate these strains or products. Ideally, the field will also develop eventually novel types of antibiotics or vaccinations against certain commensals. Such approaches would allow us, in the future, to more specifically modulate the gut microbiota in autoimmunity." 
Now that is responsible commenting on lupus and the microbiome.  Too bad ASM allowed complete BS to get into this PR instead of more reasonaed statements.

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