Microbiome: what role does it play in depression and its treatment?

New studies link the gut microbiome to depressive disorders. This may result in a new therapeutic approach for affective disorder treatments.

New study identifies possible connections 

Depression: High prevalence in the population

It has not been a secret for a long time: one in five people will suffer from depression in the course of their life. Most have rather mild to moderate symptoms, but many people also suffer from severe depressive disorders. The illness affects the quality of life of those affected immensely and can lead to severe social restrictions.

Often, the treatment of depressive disorder is also complex. Not every patient responds to every antidepressant and the search for the ideal solution can sometimes be a long one. Therefore, it is all the more important to research new and previously unknown pathomechanisms. This can sometimes lead to new therapeutic options.

The human microbiome: Very influential on the body

For some time now, the gut microbiome has been researched in all corners of the earth - and rightly so. After all, many studies have been able to show its influence on organ health. Researchers have recently been able to link the microbiome to the development of depression.

For example, it could be shown that severe depressive illnesses occur more frequently after taking antibiotics, which are known to reduce the diversity of bacteria in the intestine. And in some cases, this is still the case five to ten years after discontinuation of the medication.

More research is absolutely necessary

But even though it is clear that bacterial changes in the intestinal flora are partly responsible for the development of depression, much is still unknown about the topic. For example, it has not yet been possible to identify any bacterial strains that are regularly found in depressives or that are altered. It is also not clear at the moment how exactly the microbiome is involved in the pathogenesis of depressive disorder.

The same applies to the microbiome as a therapeutic target. While there are already interesting research approaches here, this needs to be further advanced, according to the study authors. Furthermore, regulation of the intestinal flora can be used to enhance the bioavailability of traditional antidepressants.

Individual factors influence treatment

The microbiome offers exciting starting points for further research into depressive disorders and their treatment. However, due to the wide variation and individual factors, it has not yet been possible to identify the exact pathomechanism or to isolate relevant bacterial strains. Further research in the field will certainly drive the development of new models in the future.