Several lines of evidence suggest a role for the gut microbiome in type 1 diabetes. Treating diabetes-prone rodents with probiotics or antibiotics prevents the development of the disorder. Diabetes-prone rodents also have a distinctly different gut microbiome compared with healthy rodents. Recent studies in children with a high genetic risk for type 1 diabetes demonstrate significant differences in the gut microbiome between children who develop autoimmunity for the disease and those who remain healthy. However, the differences in microbiome composition between autoimmune and healthy children are not consistent across all studies because of the strong environmental influences on microbiome composition, particularly diet and geography. Controlling confounding factors of microbiome composition uncovers bacterial associations with disease. For example, in a human cohort from a single Finnish city where geography is confined, a strong association between one dominant bacterial species, Bacteroides dorei, and type 1 diabetes was discovered (Davis-Richardson et al. Front Microbiol 2014;5:678). Beyond this, recent DNA methylation analyses suggest that a thorough epigenetic analysis of the gut microbiome may be warranted. These studies suggest a testable model whereby a diet high in fat and gluten and low in resistant starch may be the primary driver of gut dysbiosis. This dysbiosis may cause a lack of butyrate production by gut bacteria, which, in turn, leads to the development of a permeable gut followed by autoimmunity. The bacterial community responsible for these changes in butyrate production may vary around the world, but bacteria of the genus Bacteroides are thought to play a key role.
Microbiology and Cell Science Department, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 1355 Museum Road, PO Box 110700, Gainesville, FL, 32611-0700, USA.