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Promising new collaboration between the Department of Anaesthesiology and APC on the role of the gut micobiome and pain perception

11 Feb 2019
Dr. Siobhain O’Mahony, Lecturer and Principal Investigator in the Department Anatomy and Neuroscience, UCC and Faculty member of APC Microbiome Ireland.

The human gut microbiota consists of trillions of bacteria which have co-evolved with humans to live symbiotically in the gastrointestinal tract. In recent times, the influence of the gut microbiome (collective genome of all mircoorganisms) on the body in health and disease has come to the fore. Studies have revealed how alterations in the composition of the gut microbiota influence normal physiology and contribute to a variety of diseases. Accumulating data, including that from Dr. O’Mahony’s lab, now indicates that central nervous system function and behaviour can be influenced by the gut microbiota.

Prof. George Shorten has established an exciting collaboration with Dr. O’Mahony in the innovative area of somatic pain and the gastrointestinal microbiota. A study emerging from this collaboration investigated the role of gut microbiota in gender-related differences in pain perception and tolerance. Data from this study indicates for the first time that individual genera correlate positively with pain sensation in women only and at specific points in the menstrual cycle. Significant correlations were also noted between markers of gut permeability and specific bacterial genera again in women only. While preliminary, this novel data highlights the potential role of gut bacteria in differential pain sensitisation between the genders and warrants further investigation. 

In addition, a series of clinical studies are underway examining the associations between gut microbiome diversity and (i). rebound pain after upper limb surgery led by Dr David Brenner, (ii). response to epidural steroid injection in patients with radicular low back pain, led by Dr Sandeep Migliani and (iii). pain persistence after surgery for breast cancer surgery, led by Dr Khaled Mausad. 


Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine