Gut Bacterial Could Be Responsible For Vision Loss, Study Shows

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Researchers in the UK have found a potential link between gut bacteria and inherited eye diseases leading to blindness. The study indicates that antimicrobial treatment could be effective in treating these conditions. Researchers found gut bacteria in damaged areas of the eyes affected by genetic mutations causing vision loss.

Genetic mutation weakens body defenses

The joint study by University College London and Chinese researchers suggests that a genetic mutation could weaken the body’s natural defenses, enabling harmful bacteria to reach the eyes and cause blindness. While the human gut hosts numerous beneficial bacteria crucial for digestion, some can pose risks.

The study focused on analyzing the role of the CRB1 gene, which is expressed in the retina and crucial for forming the blood-retina barrier. This gene is linked to 10% of Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) cases and 7% of retinitis pigmentosa (RP) cases globally.

Researchers conducted experiments on mice and found that the CRB1 gene plays a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of the lower gastrointestinal tract. This discovery, a first of its kind, highlights the gene’s function in regulating the passage of substances between the gut contents and the body, aiding in the defense against pathogens and harmful bacteria.

Antibiotics cannot restore damaged eye barriers but prevent vision loss

The study highlights how a specific gene mutation can weaken barriers in the retina and gut, allowing gut bacteria to reach the eye and cause vision loss. Treating the bacteria with antibiotics prevented vision loss in mice, although it didn’t restore the damaged eye barriers.

The timing of inherited eye disease onset differs among individuals, with symptoms appearing at various stages of life. Once symptoms manifest, deterioration is irreversible and has long-lasting effects. Current treatments mainly revolve around gene therapies. However, a recent study suggests that antimicrobial use may slow down deterioration in CRB1-associated inherited eye diseases.

Professor Richard Lee, a co-lead author, said that the discovered a surprising connection between the gut and the eye, potentially linked to blindness in certain patients. Lee added that these findings could have significant implications for treating CRB1-associated eye diseases.

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