HealthDay News — High salt intake affects the gut microbiome; however, certain intestinal bacteria may help prevent high-salt diets contributing to hypertension, according to research published in Nature.

Nicola Wilck, MD, from Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, and colleagues used gene sequencing to analyze fecal pellets from mice in order to determine the effect of a high-salt diet on the composition of the gut microbiome. Mice were fed a normal-salt diet or a high-salt diet to mimic the western lifestyle.

The researchers found that high salt intake affected the gut microbiome in mice, particularly by depleting Lactobacillus murinus. By modulating T helper 17 (TH17) cells, treatment of mice with L murinus prevented salt-induced aggravation of actively induced experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis and salt-sensitive hypertension. 

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Similarly, in a human pilot study, a moderate high-salt challenge reduced intestinal survival of Lactobacillus spp., increased TH17 cells, and increased blood pressure.

“Our results connect high salt intake to the gut-immune axis and highlight the gut microbiome as a potential therapeutic target to counteract salt-sensitive conditions,” the authors write.

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Wilck N, Matus MG, Kearney SM, et al. Salt-responsive gut commensal modulates TH17 axis and disease [published online November 15, 2017]. Nature. doi: 10.1038/nature24628