New bacteria that consumes GABA, the main calming neurotransmitter, has been discovered. It has provisionally been named KLE1738 Evtepia gabavorous (vorous means “eating”).
Here is the entire abstract: Gaba Modulating Bacteria of the Human Gut Microbiome:
The gut microbiome affects many different diseases, and has been recently linked to human mental health. The microbiome community is diverse, but 50-80% of its diversity remains uncultured. We previously reported that uncultured bacteria from the marine environment require growth factors from neighboring species, and by using co-culture, we could cultivate novel diversity. In the present study, we used a similar co-culture approach to grow bacteria from humans stool samples. KLE1738, a “Most-Wanted” member of the human gut microbiome only known by its 16S rDNA signature, was found to require the presence of Bacteroides fragilis KLE1758 for growth. Using bio-assay driven purification of B. fragilis KLE1758 supernatant, γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the major inhibitory neurotransmitter of the central nervous system, was identified as the growth factor for KLE1738. We found no other tested compound but GABA supported the growth of KLE1738, and genomic analysis suggests an unusual metabolism focused on consuming GABA. Due to this unique growth requirement, we provisionally name KLE1738 Evtepia gabavorous. Using growth of E. gabalyticus as an indicator, we then identified novel GABA producing bacteria from the gut microbiome. Reduced levels of GABA are associated with depression, and we found fewer GABA producers in a human cohort of depressed individuals. By modulating the level of GABA, microbial producers and consumers of this neurotransmitter may be influencing host behavior.
If you’re anxious and especially if you have physical anxiety, it’s worth considering if low GABA is an issue and addressing your anxiety by trying to raise your GABA levels by taking GABA as a supplement, with lifestyle activities like yoga sessions, by eating a real whole foods traditional diet and by addressing gut health.
There is much research supporting the gut-brain connection and how imbalances of the microbiome i.e. intestinal dysbiosis, can contribute to:
- anxiety, depression, social behaviour, cognition and visceral pain
- neurobehavioral alterations in offspring
- anorexia and anxiety/depression
- alcohol use disorders and anxiety
Could Evtepia gabavorous be a factor in all of the above? It’s too soon to know but I expect we’ll know more as more research is completed.
If you’re looking for more information on GABA and the gut:
- I recently covered GABA in my presentation during season 4 of the Anxiety Summit
- and I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Ted Dinan on psychobiotics on a previous summit
- I also have a whole chapter on digestion and gut health in my book The Antianxiety Food Solution. It is still very relevant but could do with the addition of all this new research!
We certainly appreciate Postdoctoral Research Associate, Phillip Strandwitz and his team for the work they are doing. Strandwitz shares this on his bio:
my work has led me to focus on the gut-microbe-brain axis, specifically microbes able to modulate levels of neurotransmitters
I reached out to I asked him why he is interested this area of research and he shared this with me:
I think mental health is an incredible burden to society and there is not nearly enough spotlight nor funding to understand and treat these issues. I believe the microbiome is involved (at least to some capacity), and I’m passionate about trying to understand this involvement to create novel therapies to help those in need. I’m also a strong supporter of diet/lifestyle changes for better cognition!
How wonderful is this!
It’s early days and right now we can only speculate but it may be worth to considering if the presence of Evtepia gabavorous may be a reason why some individuals continue to need to take GABA supplements long-term to keep anxiety at bay. It also gives us additional reasons to focus on addressing gut health and boosting good bacteria to help to reduce the need for ongoing GABA supplementation.
As soon as the paper is published, I’ll have more details to share. In the meantime, enjoy the fascination and wonderment of the human body and our microbiome.
Please share if you have signs of low GABA and have you been taking GABA supplements long-term? Do you also have gut issues and dysbiosis too (based on stool testing)?
PS. So many of you contacted me with a link to this preliminary research so I’d just like to say thanks!