MND microbiome study

MND microbiome study

UK Chief Investigator

Professor Chris McDermott

Research summary

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or motor neuron disease) is the result of a complex interaction between patient genetics and the environment. We know this because although certain genetic changes have been identified which cause motor neuron death, most patients with ALS do not carry any of these changes and have no family history of the disease.

One way in which the environment can affect the body, including the brain, is the bacteria within our gut. Gut bacteria are relatively easy to manipulate, making them an ideal target for design of new ALS treatments. Interestingly, the population of gut bacteria within an individual is influenced by other environmental features which have been linked to ALS such as diet, exercise and antibiotic use. Gut bacteria have been linked to the development of neurodegenerative diseases similar to ALS. Our first aim is to determine whether gut bacteria influence the development and severity of ALS. Our study is carefully designed; gut bacteria in ALS patients will be compared with gut bacteria in controls who are matched for diet, BMI and environment to avoid spurious signals. Our second aim is to integrate measures of gut bacteria with sequencing of patient genomes – capturing both sides of the gene-environment interaction avoids confounding by genetic heterogeneity but also opens the door to personalised medicine in which a specific treatment may be targeted at patients with good genomes and bad gut bacteria or visa versa. We will also begin collecting pilot data to investigate how chemicals produced by gut bacteria may impact disease severity. 

Current status

Active – recruiting

Key dates

Actual opening date: 19th April 2024

Planned recruitment end date: 31st March 2025

Recruitment groups

Recruitment target

200 participants in total, broken down into:

Click here to see how many participants have been recruited into this study to date (external link to the NIHR public study search)


Information about study sites

Contact details

Email Sarah Boddy:

Inclusion / exclusion criteria

Inclusion criteria

Additional inclusion criterion for patients with MND only:

Additional inclusion criterion for family members of patients with MND only:

Exclusion criteria


MND Association & NIHR Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre


University of Sheffield

Study design