7.6 Parkinson’s Disease and the Microbiome


Parkinson’s disease is a devastating neurodegenerative disease that affects one in 100 people over age 60,

Although there is some evidence for a genetic component112, environment clearly plays a role as well – which of course, may point to microbes.

A 2017 review finds this:

Since 2015, six studies examining the gut microbiome in Parkinson’s disease (PD) have reported an increase in Akkermansia abundance in PD patients (e.g., Heintz-Buschart et al., 2017; Hill-Burns et al., 2017); indeed, elevated Akkermansia abundance appears to be the most consistently defining feature of the PD microbiome. Likewise, a 2017 study found elevated Akkermansia in individuals with rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, which is considered a pre-motor symptom of PD (Heintz-Buschart et al., 2017).

Is this observable in our samples?

“Patrick” is a confirmed Parkinson’s patient who sent me his microbiome test results. Let’s look first at the Genus overall picture:

Bacteroides 37.90
Roseburia 9.84
Blautia 8.86
Pseudobutyrivibrio 7.43
Alistipes 7.18
Parabacteroides 3.89
Akkermansia 2.93
Lachnospira 2.64
Dorea 1.95
Clostridium 1.78

How different is Patrick’s Akkermansia compared to everyone else?

Density plot comparing Parkinsons patient to healthy users

Figure 7.7: Density plot comparing Parkinsons patient to healthy users

Density plot comparing Parkinson's patient to me.

Figure 7.8: Density plot comparing Parkinson’s patient to me.

How about me compared to my father and sister? (My brother, who I also tested, shows abundance of zero)

There are only 8 few samples involved here, and that one on the far right is just one of two from my sister and is therefore likely an anomaly. Still, if there were a big family component to this microbe, it certainly isn’t showing in this test. F

Let’s check the variability of my Akkermansia:

##        0%       25%       50%       75%      100% 
##  0.000000  1.843725  4.010650  7.229650 37.161400

As you can see, my levels are consistently quite high, and sometimes extremely high.

A May 2019 study of 62 million electronic health records showed a slight increase in Parkinsons among people who had appendectomies113, but smaller studies showed a slightly lower risk.

Hard to say…