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The bacteria in your gut might affect your vulnerability to PTSD

22 November 2017

After a traumatic experience, why do some people develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), while others don’t?

Work to date has found evidence that various factors play a role, including a lack of social support and low levels of the neurotransmitter neuropeptide Y (due to its role in the body’s stress response). Into this mix come new findings, reported in Psychosomatic Medicine, that an individual’s complement of gut bacteria (their gut microbiome) may contribute to their vulnerability to trauma. The researchers are now investigating whether tweaking the gut microbiome could help to prevent or treat PTSD.

Lead author on the paper, Sian Hemmings, is based at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, where about three quarters of the population experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, and more than half experience multiple traumatic events. PTSD is a debilitating anxiety disorder, which can persist for years.

While estimates of its prevalence in South Africa, as well as other countries, vary widely, in the US, for example, about 6.8 per cent of adults are diagnosed with PTSD at some point in their lives. There’s a pressing need for new insights into the factors that contribute to PTSD, and new strategies for prevention and treatment.

Read more on our Research Digest blog.



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