A mutual impact of gastrointestinal tract (GIT) and central nervous system (CNS) functions has been recognized since the mid-twentieth century. It is accepted that the so-called gut-brain axis provides a two-way homeostatic communication, through immunological, hormonal and neuronal signals. A dysfunction of this axis has been associated with the pathogenesis of some diseases both within and outside the GIT, that have shown an increase in incidence over the last decades. Studies comparing germ-free animals and animals exposed to pathogenic bacterial infections, probiotics or antibiotics suggest the participation of the microbiota in this communication and a role in host defense, regulation of immunity and autoimmune disease appearance. The GIT could represent a vulnerable area through which pathogens influence all aspects of physiology and even induce CNS neuro-inflammation. All those concepts may suggest the modulation of the gut microbiota as an achievable strategy for innovative therapies in complex disorders. Moving from this background, the present review discusses the relationship between intestinal microbiota and CNS and the effects in health and disease. We particularly look at how the commensal gut microbiota influences systemic immune response in some neurological disorders, highlighting its impact on pain and cognition in multiple sclerosis, Guillain-Barrè Syndrome, neurodevelopmental and behavioral disorders and Alzheimer’s disease. In this review we discuss recent studies showing that the potential microbiota-gut-brain dialogue is implicated in neurodegenerative diseases. Gaining a better understanding of the relationship between microbiota and CNS could provide an insight on the pathogenesis and therapeutic strategies of these disorders.
- [PubMed – in process]