Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition where the sufferer experiences widespread pain and a variety of other symptoms. The symptoms can be debilitating and can have a significant negative impact on the lives of the patient and sometimes even their families.
According to the Autoimmunity Research Foundation (ARF), fibromyalgia is an autoimmune condition. As with most autoimmune conditions, patients are told there is no cure and are prescribed palliative medications to provide some relief from the symptoms.
Studies done by the ARF suggest that fibromyalgia, and other autoimmune diseases and conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome and sarcoidosis, could be caused by an intra-phagocytic bacterial pathogenesis.
What Is the Human Microbiome?
The human microbiome is a group of microorganisms that live in the saliva, mouth lining, on the surface and deep layers of the skin and in the gastrointestinal tracts. Fungi, bacteria and archaea are examples of human microbiomes.
Research has shown that many are actually beneficial to the human body. Others don’t seem to do much and are neither beneficial nor harmful. Recent research suggests that there are some microbiomes that could be potentially harmful to some people.
The Human Microbiome Project
The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) is a five-year study launched by the United States National Institutes of Health that studied the microorganisms in healthy and non-healthy. The goal of the study was to determine if there’s a connection between the human microbiome and overall human health and conditions such as fibromyalgia.
The $115 million study, launched in 2008, hasn’t provided any concrete answers, but has somewhat increased scientists knowledge about the microorganisms. The Journal of Cellular & Molecular Immunology reports that further, carefully monitored research is required.
The study involved taking samples five body sites of healthy individuals and those with a variety of chronic conditions. Samples were taken from the following areas:
The Human Microbiome and Autoimmune Diseases
At the 2011 World DNA and Genome Day held in Dalian, China, Professor Trevor Marshall explained how the human microbiome is “at the heart of autoimmune disease.” Professor Trevor Marshall is a professor at the Faculty of Health Sciences at the Murdock University in West Australia.
The basic theme of his presentation was that clinical chronic conditions or infections were no longer an illusionary concept. They weren’t made up conditions created by the fertile imaginations of individuals seeking attention, as was once thought about those who suffered from fibromyalgia.
His conclusion was that human microbiomes somehow alter the environment that they come from. Sometimes the way they alter the environment they come from is very small and difficult to notice or measure.
He acknowledges that medical research has a long way to go as far as measuring the specific impact microbiomes have on the human cell. He says that the difficulty in completing such studies partially has to do with the inability of technology to effectively study the minute changes the microbiomes have on cells in the body because even the strongest microscope isn’t strong enough to make it possible to see these very slight changes in cells.
What This Means for Fibromyalgia Sufferers
Research into the human microbiome could eventually shed some light as to the cause of fibromyalgia. Right now the cause is unknown even though there is a lot of speculation as to why some people get the condition and others don’t. Some medical researchers believe that there might even be a hereditary link.
But ultimately, although research is being conducted, the final conclusions to the research are vague.
The hope is that a cure will eventually be discovered with improvements in technology and government support of microbiome studies by agencies like the National Institute of Health and charitable research foundations like the ARF.