by Brooke Napier
Meet the bacterium Akkermansia muciniphila. It’s new to me too. I’m scared but excited.
Patrice Cani and her team at the Walloon Excellence in Life sciences and BIOtechnology (WELBIO) Institute in Belgium isolated Akkermansia muciniphila from the mucus layer of the intestine. They were particularly interested in this mucus dwelling bacterium because they found the presence of it interferes with the permeability of the intestinal layer.
Why is the permeability of the intestinal layer important?
Recently this same group found that increased permeability of the intestinal layer is associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes. They found this by showing that obese patients or patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes showed signs of bacterial lipids (specifically endotoxin lipopolysaccharide) within the blood.
How would bacterial lipids get into the blood? Permeability of the intestinal wall.
The presence of these bacterial lipids cause chronic inflammation of the intestine, which is horrible for anyone to live with (but comes in handy when you know this type of person because they always know where the bathroom is…) and this inflammation is a hallmark of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
See that circle? It’s a beautiful scientific circle, but it’s a dreadful real-life circle. What is missing is what is causing the intestinal permeability, and that is where Akkermansia mucinphila comes in…
This is not the first group to have the idea that our gut microbiota is responsible for intestinal permeability in this scheme, however they are the first to identify one out of millions of bacterial species that correlates with this symptom, and that’s pretty huge.
Akkermansia mucinphila is a mucin-degrading bacterium that resides in the mucus layer of the intestine. It loves the mucus layer so much that is the predominate species found in this wet, sticky, dark layer – and interestingly the presence of this bacterium inversely correlates with body weight in humans (and mice!). Meaning, genetically and diet-induced obese mice had a dramatic decrease in A. mucinphila.
How is Akkermansia mucinphila related to weight loss/gain and type 2 diabetes?
It turns out, the presence of A. mucinphila in the intestines restores intestinal permeability in diet-induced obese mice, or type 2 diabetic mice. They did this by having control mice, high-fat diet mice, and another set of control + A. mucinphila (Akk) and high-fat diet + mucinphila (below).
M = mucus layer, IM = inner mucus layer
Basically, A. mucinphila decreased intestinal permeability, bacterial lipids in the blood, insulin resistance, and chronic inflammation AND increased mucus layer thickness (above) and adipose tissue (FAT!) degradation – all in obese or type 2 diabetes model mice. All of this without changing any of the other gut microbiota.
Miracle bug? Perhaps.
Basically I want this bug in me. Interestingly, there is a prebiotic that increases colonization of the gut with A. mucinphila called oligofructose, however the mechanism is uses to increase this gut microbe is unknown (along with it’s side effects in humans). So maybe just a pill with A. mucinphila within a capsule (that can withstand the low pH of the stomach)? Would that even work? I’m not sure, but…
I would sign up for that study.
Everard, A., Belzer, C., Geurts, L., Ouwerkerk, J., Druart, C., Bindels, L., Guiot, Y., Derrien, M., Muccioli, G., Delzenne, N., de Vos, W., & Cani, P. (2013). Cross-talk between Akkermansia muciniphila and intestinal epithelium controls diet-induced obesity Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110 (22), 9066-9071 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1219451110