A Role for the Gut Microbiome in Immune-Mediated Disease

The importance of gut health…

Our research has shown that, along with a range of other diseases involving the immune system, the inflammatory spinal arthritis ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is most likely caused by bacteria in the gut triggering abnormal immune responses in patients. We were the first group to show that AS patients could be distinguished from healthy people by studying their gut bacteria (‘microbiome’), and are now working to determine precisely which bacteria are possibly involved in triggering disease processes.

Using state of the art DNA sequencing techniques, we are looking in-depth at the microbiome in the guts of patients with AS, inflammatory bowel disease and healthy volunteers. To do this we are sourcing stool and blood samples, gut biopsies and questionnaire data from affected and healthy individuals.

If differences in the gut microbiome are found to directly contribute to or correlate with the development of AS, this may lead to new ways of screening people for the disease, helping with diagnosis and providing preventative intervention.

How can you help?

This project is being conducted at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, Logan Hospital and the University of Palermo, Italy.  If you are interested in helping or would like more information on this project, please contact Julie Phipps (research nurse) on +61 7 3443 7078.


A number of genes contributing to AS susceptibility may alter gut barrier integrity and immune responses to microbes in the gut. A number of microorganisms have been found at an altered abundance in the guts of AS patients. 

Image credit:

Figure published in: Brown MA, Kenna T, Wordsworth BP. Genetics of ankylosing spondylitis-insights into pathogenesis. Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2016;12(2):81-91.