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Gut bacteria may be the key to dementia risk factors

Published 04 Apr 2019
Gut bacteria may be the key to dementia risk factors

Household carers of people with dementia are six times more likely to develop the disease in the future.

To solve this perplexing puzzle, researchers at The University of Tasmania’s College of Health and Medicine are looking to gut bacteria for the answers.

Volunteers are needed for the study which will look at the gut bacteria or ‘microbiota’ of people living at home with dementia and that of their carers, to examine the correlation between that bacteria, cognitive function and stress.

Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre researcher and project lead Dr Jenna Ziebell said the study had the potential to uncover some groundbreaking dementia risk factors.

“Every individual has bacteria living in their gut which helps us digest our food and take in the nutrients we need to live and the more diverse the species of that bacteria the healthier you tend to be as an individual,” Dr Ziebell said.

“We will be looking at all the different species in your gut and whether the ratio of good and bad bacteria has any association between cognitive status or disease.

“Potentially diet and environment, for example, could be modifiable risk factors for those living with dementia or those caring with someone with dementia.”

The research is being carried out in conjunction with the University’s Department of Mathematics and with support from San Francisco-based biotechnology company uBiome, which will be providing sample collection kits and sample analysis for the project.

It is hoped results from the study will be available in 12 months.

The researchers are currently calling for participants to be involved in this study who are living in the community and are either a spousal carer for someone with mild cognitive impairment, dementia or other chronic illness (e.g heart disease or cancer) or an individual living with mild cognitive impairment, dementia or other chronic illness.

Recruits must be based in the Hobart area.

Anyone interested in being a part of the study can contact:  jenna.ziebell@utas.edu.au for more information.