Despite decades of research, scientists are still unable to pinpoint the exact cause of Parkinson’s disease. While there is sufficient evidence to link environment and genetics to the notorious nervous disorder, researchers have now credible data suggesting that gut bacteria possibly play a huge role in the early development of the disease.

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Image: WebMD

In their study based on animal experiments, the researchers from California claimed that the new findings could eventually lead to potentially revolutionary changes in the treatment methods currently in use. For example, the disease could be controlled or by and large eradicated by killing the responsible gut bugs or probiotics.

The study, originally published in the journal Cell, has so far drawn largely positive feedback from fellow scientists. The researchers used mice genetically programmed to suffer from Parkinson’s disease by producing high levels of alpha-synuclein, a protein that’s closely associated with the  damages caused in the brains of Parkinson’s patients. At the end of the experiments, they found that only those animals with a large concentration of gut bacteria developed symptoms. Compared to them, the sterile mice remained healthy with no Parkinson’s symptoms whatsoever.

The researchers also observed that transporting guy bacteria from human Parkinson’s patient to mice led to more symptoms than gut bacteria transported from healthy people.

“This was the ‘eureka’ moment, the mice were genetically identical, the only difference was the presence or absence of gut microbiota,”Dr Timothy Sampson, one of the researchers at the California Institute of Technology, said, BBC reports.

“Now we were quite confident that gut bacteria regulate, and are even required for, the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.”