Gut Bacteria Linked to Vision Loss

For decades, research has been piling up about the importance of having a healthy gut. The bacteria in your microbiome influence many aspects of your health. New research has found a link between gut bacteria and inherited eye diseases. This find could lead to antimicrobial treatments that could save people’s visions.

According to research, people with inherited eye diseases are more likely to have a genetic mutation that lowers the body’s defenses and allows gut bacteria to enter the eye and cause sight loss. In mice, researchers were able to use antimicrobials to save their vision without changing their genes.

Inherited eye diseases are one of the leading causes of blindness. In the past, treatment has focused on gene therapy. Being able to take antimicrobials instead would be much easier.

Previously, bacteria in the eyes were believed to be rare. The eyes are protected by a layer of tissues that bacteria shouldn’t be able to breach. However, this discovery shows it might be far more common than we knew.

Martin Kriegel, a microbiome researcher at the Univ. of Münster, wasn’t involved in the work. But, he said, “It’s going to be a big paradigm shift.”  

Co-lead author Prof. Richard Lee of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology was excited by his team’s discovery. “Our findings could have huge implications for transforming treatment for [these types of] eye diseases. We hope to continue this research in clinical studies to confirm if this mechanism is indeed the cause of blindness in people, and whether treatments targeting bacteria could prevent blindness. Additionally, as we have revealed an entirely novel mechanism linking retinal degeneration to the gut, our findings may have implications for a broader spectrum of eye conditions, which we hope to continue to explore with further studies.”

We have trillions of bacteria in our guts. They help us live healthy lives. But they are supposed to stay in our intestines. This genetic anomaly lowers the barriers between both the gut and the eye, allowing bacteria into the retina.

In the animal study, antibiotics killed the bacteria in the eyes and prevented further vision loss but didn’t reverse blindness. Animal studies aren’t the same as human studies, and this research has a way to go before it can be proven definitive.

Staying on top of your vision health with regular visits to your ophthalmologist is essential. Knowing your situation early is best. Dr. Jeremy Kay, a neurobiologist at Duke Univ., said, “I’m very concerned that patients are going to read this and think they have an easy answer.” But he went on to add, “It couldn’t hurt to try antibiotics in patients.”

Banner image: Mart Production via Pexels

Related Posts

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Please check your email to confirm your subscription.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form
By clicking the "Subscribe" button you agree to our newsletter policy