Gut bacteria helps researchers ID new types of hypertension

Preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Hypertension 2019 Scientific Sessions this week suggests gut bacteria could be an indicator of whether someone with high blood pressure also suffers from depression.

Bruce R. Stevens, PhD, lead author of the study and a professor of medicine and psychiatry at the University of Florida, said in a statement he believes his team identified new forms of high blood pressure during the course of their work, including “depressive hypertension,” “non-depressive hypertension” and “non-hypertensive depression.” The study involved looking at gut bacteria from 105 volunteers.

“People are ‘meta-organisms’ made up of roughly equal numbers of human cells and bacteria,” Stevens said. “Gut bacteria etiology interacts with our bodily physiology and brains, which may steer some people toward developing high blood pressure and depression. In the future, health professionals may target your gut in order to prevent, diagnose and selectively treat different forms of high blood pressure.”

Stevens and his colleagues isolated DNA samples from gut bacteria obtained from the stool samples of 105 volunteers, using AI software to analyze the bacteria. Analysis revealed four distinct types of bacterial genes and signature molecules in people with:

  • High blood pressure with depression
  • High blood pressure without depression
  • Depression with healthy blood pressure
  • No depression and healthy blood pressure

Stevens said his team’s findings suggest there are differing medical mechanisms of hypertension that correlate with signature molecules produced by gut bacteria. He said this research could grow to uncover novel treatment approaches that could help the 20% of high blood pressure patients with treatment-resistant hypertension.

“We believe we have uncovered new forms of high blood pressure,” he said.