Researchers at the University of Virginia have discovered how Lactobacillus, a gut microbiome bacterium, influences a key immune system protein, thereby affecting stress levels and mental health. This finding could lead to new probiotic treatments for depression and anxiety. The study revealed that disruptions in the gut microbiome, particularly a reduction in Lactobacillus, are linked to mood disorders.
Using a gnotobiotic approach, the researchers demonstrated that transferring the microbiota from stressed mice to germ-free mice induced anxiety- and depression-like behaviors. They found that the absence of Lactobacillus led to reduced interferon-gamma levels, making mice more susceptible to stress. This research provides a new understanding of the gut microbiome’s role in mood disorders and the immune system, offering potential pathways for developing novel therapies.