Gut microbiota as a therapeutic target to ameliorate the biochemical, neuroanatomical, and behavioral effects of traumatic brain injuries

Matthew W. Rice*, Jignesh D. Pandya, Deborah A. Shear

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Current efficacious treatments for traumatic brain injury (TBI) are lacking. Establishment of a protective gut microbiota population offers a compelling therapeutic avenue, as brain injury induces disruptions in the composition of the gut microbiota, i.e., gut dysbiosis, which has been shown to contribute to TBI-related neuropathology and impaired behavioral outcomes. The gut microbiome is involved in the modulation of a multitude of cellular and molecular processes fundamental to the progression of TBI-induced pathologies including neuroinflammation, blood brain barrier permeability, immune system response, microglial activation, and mitochondrial dysfunction, as well as intestinal motility and permeability. Additionally, gut dysbiosis further aggravates behavioral impairments in animal models of TBI and spinal cord injury, as well as negatively affects health outcomes in murine stroke models. Recent studies indicate that microbiota transplants and probiotics ameliorate neuroanatomical damage and functional impairments in animal models of stroke and spinal cord injury. In addition, probiotics have been shown to reduce the rate of infection and time spent in intensive care of hospitalized patients suffering from brain trauma. Perturbations in the composition of the gut microbiota and its metabolite profile may also serve as potential diagnostic and theragnostic biomarkers for injury severity and progression. This review aims to address the etiological role of the gut microbiome in the biochemical, neuroanatomical, and behavioral/cognitive consequences of TBI, as well as explore the potential of gut microbiome manipulation in the form of probiotics as an effective therapeutic to ameliorate TBI-induced pathology and symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number875
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Issue numberAUG
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Gut dysbiosis
  • Gut microbiome
  • Microbiota-gut-brain axis
  • Therapy
  • Traumatic brain injury


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