GUT FEELING Hope for millions with fibromyalgia as new gut bacteria test could diagnose condition faster

LADY GAGA, Kirsty Young and Morgan Freeman might have it, but there’s been little hope for fibromyalgia sufferers until now.

The crippling condition affects up to 4 per cent of the population and has no known cure.

 Lady Gaga lives with the chronic condition which takes an average of five years to diagnose
Lady Gaga lives with the chronic condition which takes an average of five years to diagnoseCredit: Getty Images – Getty

But a new study might, at least, have found one of the causes of it.

Scientists have found that fibromyalgia sufferers had too many or too few species of gut bacteria, compared to other people.

And that finding could be crucial to helping people get quicker diagnoses.

They looked at the gut bacteria of 156 people living in Montreal, Canada – 77 of whom had fibromyalgia.

They were all interviewed before giving poo, blood, saliva and urine samples, which were all them compared to those of the people without the condition.

Gut bacteria changes with the condition

They found that people with fibromyalgia had dramatically different gut bacteria makeup to those who didn’t have it.

The team from McGill University Health Centre used artificial intelligence to confirm that the bacteria changes noticed weren’t caused by diet, medication, exercise or age.

Using their computer, they were able to diagnose people with the condition simply by looking at their gut microbiome – with nearly 90 per cent accuracy.

More pain = more bacteria changes

“We found that fibromyalgia and the symptoms of fibromyalgia – pain, fatigue, and cognitive difficulties – contribute more than any of the other factors to the variations we see in the microbiomes of those with the disease,” lead author of the study, Amir Minerbi, said.

“We also saw that the severity of a patient’s symptoms was directly correlated with an increased presence or a more pronounced absence of certain bacteria – something which has never been reported before.”

At the moment, scientists still don’t understand why people with fibromyalgia would have a different gut bacteria balance.

Because the condition is a cluster of symptoms rather than one issue, the next stage of research will involve investigating whether similar changes to gut bacteria are present in other conditions that revolve around chronic pain.

Does the gut bacteria balance cause pain? And if does have an impact on pain, does that mean a cure may be on the horizon?

At the moment, fibromyalgia patients can wait up to five years for a diagnosis.

Symptoms of fibromyalgia

People often think that fibromyalgia just causes pain but the condition can result in a number of debilitating life-changing symptoms.

Other signs can include:

  • fatigue
  • brain fog
  • headache
  • clumsiness
  • dizziness
  • IBS
  • sensitivity to weather changes

AI diagnosis is 87% accurate

But that could be about to change.

Emmanuel Gonzalez, from the McGill team, said that their computer was able to make a diagnosis of fibromyalgia based only on the composition of the gut microbiome.

It had an 87 per cent accuracy.

“As we build on this first discovery with more research, we hope to improve upon this accuracy, potentially creating a step-change in diagnosis,” he said.

The scientists’ next steps will be to see if they get similar results in another group of participants.

The findings come after a study published back in March found that the condition might soon be detected via a simple blood test.

At the time, study co-author Luis Rodriguez-Saona, called the initial results “ remarkable”.

They found that there were clear patterns in the blood of patients with fibromyalgia that made them distinct from those with the other disorders.

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