Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease caused by intestinal bacteria?

A group of researchers found that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition that sees the progressive accumulation of fat in liver cells, could be linked to the intestinal microbiome according to a new study conducted by the Chinese research team.

In fact, there has never been a clear explanation of the mechanism leading to the accumulation of fat in the liver, a condition that is so extensive that it affects one billion people worldwide, although in many cases it does not cause symptoms. It only causes symptoms when this accumulation exceeds certain limits and, in the most serious cases, can also lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer.

The researchers analyzed the case of a Chinese man who had had unexplained attacks of poisoning for 10 years and who showed high levels of alcohol in his blood despite not being a great drinker. Also, when he drank sugary drinks, he tended to get drunk. The doctors found that his condition was caused by strains of intestinal bacteria relegated to synthesizing alcohol from ingested foods, particularly sugars.

By doing more research on NAFLD patients, researchers at the Beijing Capital Institute of Paediatrics, who then published the study on Cell Metabolism, found that Klebsiella pneumonia is more present in a number of people suffering from this disease. In addition, by performing experiments on mice, this bacterium caused liver damage.

Klebsiella pneumonia could, therefore, explain the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease as the evidence seems quite convincing, as gastroenterologist Anna Mae Diehl, a NAFLD expert who commented on the results of the study on Science, also states. This discovery could be decisive for the development of better methods to counter this disease.

Researchers have already treated mice exposed to this bacterium in the laboratory with special beans that affect precisely this species of bacterium: rodents seemed no longer to suffer the same liver abnormalities. These results give rise to the hope that a bean-based therapy could be useful to treat the disease in humans as well.