Centro de Biología Molecular “Severo Ochoa” (CSIC-UAM). c/Nicolás Cabrera, 1. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. Cantoblanco. 28049 Madrid. Spain.
*DP and RA contributed equally to this work.
Parkinson's disease (PD) is characterized by motor disorders and the destruction of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta. In addition to motor disability, many patients with PD present a spectrum of clinical symptoms, including cognitive decline, psychiatric alterations, loss of smell and bladder dysfunction, among others. Neuroinflammation is one of the most salient features of PD, but the nature of the trigger remains unknown. A plausible mechanism to explain inflammation and the range of clinical symptoms in these patients is the presence of systemic microbial infection. Accordingly, the present study provides extensive evidence for the existence of mixed microbial infections in the central nervous system (CNS) of patients with PD. Assessment of CNS sections by immunohistochemistry using specific antibodies revealed the presence of both fungi and bacteria. Moreover, different regions of the CNS were positive for a variety of microbial morphologies, suggesting infection by a number of microorganisms. Identification of specific fungal and bacterial species in different CNS regions from six PD patients was accomplished using nested PCR analysis and next-generation sequencing, providing compelling evidence of polymicrobial infections in the CNS of PD. Most of the fungal species identified belong to the genera Botrytis, Candida, Fusarium and Malassezia. Some relevant bacterial genera were Streptococcus and Pseudomonas, with most bacterial species belonging to the phyla Actinobacteria and Proteobacteria. Interestingly, we noted similarities and differences between the microbiota present in the CNS of patients with PD and that in other neurodegenerative diseases. Overall, our observations lend strong support to the concept that mixed microbial infections contribute to or are a risk factor for the neuropathology of PD. Importantly, these results provide the basis for effective treatments of this disease using already approved and safe antimicrobial therapeutics.
Keywords: Parkinson's disease, neurodegenerative diseases, polymicrobial infections, fungal infection, next-generation sequencing