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The Role of Gut Microbiota in the High-Risk Construct of Severe Mental Disorders: A Mini Review

Sani G, Manchia M, Simonetti A, Janiri D, Paribello P, Pinna F, Carpiniello B (2021) Frontiers in Psychiatry 2021 Jan 12;11:585769 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyt.2020.585769 

Abstract:

Severe mental disorders (SMD) are highly prevalent psychiatric conditions exerting an enormous toll on society. Therefore, prevention of SMD has received enormous attention in the last two decades. Preventative approaches are based on the knowledge and detailed characterization of the developmental stages of SMD and on risk prediction. One relevant biological component, so far neglected in high risk research, is microbiota. The human microbiota consists in the ensemble of microbes, including viruses, bacteria, and eukaryotes, that inhabit several ecological niches of the organism. Due to its demonstrated role in modulating illness and health, as well in influencing behavior, much interest has focused on the characterization of the microbiota inhabiting the gut. Several studies in animal models have shown the early modifications in the gut microbiota might impact on neurodevelopment and the onset of deficits in social behavior corresponding to distinct neurosignaling alterations. However, despite this evidence, only one study investigated the effect of altered microbiome and risk of developing mental disorders in humans, showing that individuals at risk for SMD had significantly different global microbiome composition than healthy controls. We then offer a developmental perspective and provided mechanistic insights on how changes in the microbiota could influence the risk of SMD. We suggest that the analysis of microbiota should be included in the comprehensive assessment generally performed in populations at high risk for SMD as it can inform predictive models and ultimately preventative strategies.

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