Prize a boost for UTS depression research
A pair of scientists at UTS have received a top prize from a US science firm to assist their research into the efficacy of probiotics in treating depression.
Microbiologist Dr Catherine Burke and clinical psychologist Dr Lynette Roberts’ study involves a clinical trial and a study of the gut microbiomes of depressed people before and after they take probiotics.
The prize from MO BIO Laboratories includes US$5000 worth of kits and sequencing to help kick start the study.
Dr Burke says the study aims to see whether there is an improvement in depressive symptoms, whether there's also a change in the gut microbiome and whether they can be correlated.
“There's a lot of literature that suggests that bacteria in the gut are linked to things that happen in the brain,” Dr Burke said.
“I’m going to be looking at the gut microbiome before and after probiotic administration to see if there is a difference; and also comparing depressed and non-depressed individuals prior to any probiotic administration, to see if there are differences at baseline.”
The clinical trial will look at both the effectiveness of probiotics first on their own as treatment, and then later in conjunction with cognitive behavioural therapy.
Both the researchers and the subjects won’t know whether they have taken a placebo or a probiotic.
“There’s some really cool research with rats and healthy human volunteers that [shows that] probiotics, which are good bacteria can actually have an effect on your mood and your stress levels,” Dr Roberts said.
“[The prize] will really help the study because it will allow us to do a really kind of in depth detailed analysis of each participant microbiome,” she said.
“We can see that, if you take probiotics, how does that affect your gut health, in a really kind of fine-tuned detailed analysis.
“We will be able to look at all the different bacterial strains and how it changes as a result of probiotics,” Dr Roberts said.
Depression is one of the most prominent mental health issues in Australia. The latest national data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics found around one in eleven Australians reported having depression or feelings of depression.
“Depression will affect about 1 in 7 Australians in their lifetime,” Dr Roberts said.
“If you are in a lecture theatre or a tutorial that’ll mean a couple of people or yourself or someone you know.”
“We do have very good treatments such as psychological therapy and antidepressants but they don’t work for everybody and there can be a lot of stigma attached to taking some of these treatments,” Dr Roberts said.
“What probiotics could do is that it is a low stigma, low side effect, relatively cheap supplement that could help improve the mood of 1 in 7 Australians.”
The scientists are currently recruiting participants for the study, who will receive a $50 gift certificate for taking part.
The last day of enrolment for the year is October 21, 2016. Enrol now.