Ground-breaking discovery finds new link between autoimmune diseases and a gut bacterium
Could microbes in our guts be sending out the wrong message? Queen’s University Belfast researchers have, for the first time, found a specific microbe in the gut that pumps out protein molecules that mimic a human protein, causing the human defence system to turn on its own cells by mistake. The culprit in this case is called Bacteroides fragilis, a bacterium that normally lives in the human gut. The Queen’s team has shown that this bacterium produces a human-like protein that could trigger autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. This human protein is called ‘ubiquitin’ and is needed for all the normal cell processes in our bodies.