Hong Kong Society of Gut Microbiome

The 4th Gut Microbiome International Symposium

Nearly 400 People Attended HKSGM Symposium
"Microbiome Medicine -
The Key to Total Health Management"
Medical Experts Gathered to Discuss Microbiome Therapeutics

A growing body of research shows that mental distress such as depression and insomnia, allergies, asthma,  neurodegeneration like Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune skin conditions including psoriasis or even  certain types of cancer are related to gut microbiome dysbiosis. At the Gut Microbiome International  Symposium held on 15 July 2023, a panel of medical experts and researchers concluded that gut  microbiome-based health management can be an effective strategy of disease prevention and treatment. 

Hong Kong Society of Gut Microbiome revealed at the symposium that it will launch a clinical study on  the impact of novel probiotics intervention on severe depression and insomnia in collaboration with  mental health experts from the mainland. The project is purported to explore evidence-based remedies  for mental disorders that work alongside conventional medication.  

Health and Diseases – Gut Microbiome Matters 

Hong Kong Society of Gut Microbiome hosted its 4th Gut Microbiome International Symposium on 15th July 2023 at the Charles Kao Auditorium. The event discussing Microbiome Medicine – The Key to Total  Health Management was attended by more than 200 people. The Public Mental Health Centre,  Wenzhou Medical University is the co-organiser of the symposium. 

Dr Steven Loo, representative of the HKSGM remarked in his welcome speech that despite the growing  awareness on the significance of gut microbiome, its application in prevention of diseases and health  management is underdeveloped in Hong Kong. In particular, the use of microbiome-based approach to  mental disorders such as depression, and major health concerns like Alzheimer’s disease, immune system  diseases and cancer which prevail in our ageing population. “The HKSGM is dedicated to research on and to promote gut microbiome health management. By doing so, we hope to help people prevent certain  health issues and thus reduce the burden of medical expenses on individuals and the society at large.” 

Clinical study for Mental Health  

According to the World Health Organization’s scientific brief, global prevalence of anxiety and depression  increased by a massive 25% in the first year of Covid-19 pandemic. HKSGM’s community research also  found that the people who had sleep problems or depression were prone to lack specific probiotic strains  in their gut. Dr Loo pointed out that in the face of the increasingly severe mental health crisis, there is a  dire need of more diverse, evidence-based and cost-effective solutions to alleviate mental health  problems like depression and anxiety. Gut microbiome health management can be one of the options. 

Dr Yu Yan Qui, Senior Researcher, School of Public Health, Fudan University cited meta-analyses that  many clinical research and community research had indicated the positive impacts of probiotics on  alleviating depression and sleep problems. However, the studies are mostly foreign and the sample sizes  are rather small.  

HKSGM, Wenzhou Medical University and the Second People’s Hospital of Lishui City have reached an  agreement on a one-year collaborative research project which will look into the efficacy of probiotics supplement for severe depression and insomnia. The study will recruit 500 participants. Being one of  the largest cross-disciplinary research on mental health and gut microbiome, the study is expected to  gather extensive data from the Chinese population and its findings will provide valuable implication for  mental health practitioners in Hong Kong, the Mainland and even overseas, benefitting public mental  health in the long run.  

A New Way to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease and Cancer  

Seven speakers spoke on gut microbiome therapeutics for different health issues and the related  research results. 

Currently, there are few proven therapies to alleviate Alzheimer’s disease or curb its development.  Professor Lin Zhi Xiu, Director in the School of Chinese Medicine, the Chinese University of Hong Kong  (CUHK) pointed out that Alzheimer’s disease has a strong association with gut microbiome. His research  in mouse model has shown that patchouli alcohol, a type of Chinese herbal medicine can ameliorate cognitive deficits through modulating gut microbiota. By suppressing the accumulation of amyloid  deposition, patchouli alcohol works to improve cognitive functions such as memory and spatial senses. 
The study indicates the possible application of patchouli alcohol in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and gives strong evidence on the link between Alzheimer’s disease and dysbiosis. 

Professor Stephen Tsui, Professor and Associate director (Research) in the School of Biomedical  Sciences, CUHK talked about unlocking the link between gut microbiome, asthma and cancer. He cites a  study findings that the prevalence of asthma in Hong Kong is 10 times higher than that in Heyuan on the  Mainland, saying that other than gene, gut dysbiosis due to excessive hygiene and meat-based diet is also  a major culprit of having asthma. Gut microbiome conditions are found to have a direct linkage with the efficacy of asthma treatment, according to a latest research study. Also, Professor Tsui warned that  pathogenic microbiota in the gut promotes chronic inflammation which could impair the immune system  and trigger the increase of cytokine and cancer-inducing substances in the body, leading to the  development and metastasis of cancer cells.  

Professor Sun Bao Qing, Vice Director of The National Clinical Research Center for Respiratory Diseases shared her insights on the epidemiology of food allergies from the gut microbiome perspective. The fact  being that incidences of food allergies are on the rise across the Mainland, more and more evidence has  emerged, pointing to the significant role of gut microbiome in the development of immune system during  infancy. Hence, how to ensure gut microbiome health for infants is considered one of the most critical  research directions. For example, breastfeeding and caesarean section are found to be associated with  gut microbiome conditions. Researchers are looking to how to reduce food allergies risk by early lifestyle  modification, including precision probiotics supplement. Severe food allergies can be fatal and cause other  health issues such as malnutrition and mental distress. Professor Sun hopes to see more research inputs  in the area of microbiome therapeutics. 

Probiotics As Cure for Eczema and Psoriasis 

In addition, Dr Steven Loo said there had been considerable evidence that supports gut microbiome  intervention is an effective way to treat eczema (atopic dermatisits)and psoriasis. 

Dr Loo presented the findings of the HKSGM’s research studies on the topic. More than 80 percent of the  eczema patients, who had taken prescribed probiotics formula for two months, turned out to have their  Eczema Area and Severity Index (EASI) score lowered, an indicator of improvement. Those responders  exhibited elevated relative abundance of Fecalibacterium, Lactobacillus, etc. 

On psoriasis, the HKSGM conducted a clinical study in collaboration with the Hong Kong Psoriasis Patients  Association in 2021. The subjects reported significant decrease in PASI score and DLQI score which reflect  significant improvement of dysbiosis, upon the completion of a two months administration of E3 probiotic  formula. The data also indicates that the participants had higher Firmicutes / Bacteroidetes ratios in their gut lining, compared to the control group. 

Mr Gary Lai, Chairman, Hong Kong Psoriasis Patients Association , who took part in the study as a patient  said most of the participants had their symptoms relieved following the precision probiotics treatment  regime, even for those with recurring symptoms and those suffering from the disease for decades  reported positive responses. Many participants are grateful for the alleviation of the comorbid health  problems including cardiovascular problems , anxiety and joint pains.  

Dr Rittiwong, functional medicine expert from Thailand shared her experience at hospital. One of her  patients had recurring skin problems after a 30 days antibiotic treatment. Dr Rittiwong prescribed  personalised probiotics supplement based on her personal gut microbiome test results. After the  microbiome therapy, coupled with detoxification, and dietary and lifestyle modification, that patient has  had her skin conditions improved significantly.  


Nearly 400 People Attended HKSGM Symposium "Microbiome Medicine - The Key to Total Health Management" Medical Experts Gathered to Discuss Microbiome Therapeutics

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香港腸道微生物組學會研討會 近四百人參與認識「菌好病除」 眾專家介紹腸道菌群調整的醫療應用

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