Dementia with Lewy bodies—the version that afflicted Hollywood comedian Robin Williams—could soon be a disease of the past.
Researchers have identified three gut bacteria that cause it—and the discovery opens the door to better diagnosis and treatment.
Although Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is linked to abnormal deposits of a protein in the brain, it all starts in the gut, researchers at Nagoya University in Japan have discovered. They have identified three gut bacteria that start the process—Collinsella, Ruminococcus and Bifidobacterium, and the same bacteria grouping is also linked to Parkinson’s disease patients, many of whom develop DLB within a year.
Two of the bacteria carry an enzyme that controls inflammation in a region of the brain known as the substantia nigra, which produces dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates movement.
Typical symptoms of DLB, one of the most common types of dementia, include confusion, memory loss, impaired movement and visual hallucinations.
Williams was so distressed by the symptoms that he took his own life in 2014.