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News Article

Diabetic cats have reduced gut bacterial diversity

Study findings may be useful for understanding diabetes in both cats and humans

Changes in the gut microbiota have been suggested as a contributing factor to human type 2 diabetes mellitus. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen report in Scientific Reports that they have found similar changes to the gut microbiota in diabetic cats.

The cat is the only animal, aside from humans and primates, which spontaneously develops type 2 diabetes. Therefore, researchers are interested in studying how diabetes develops in cats in order to learn more about the disease in general.

In a cross-sectional study, the researchers compared the gut microbiota of diabetic cats to that of lean, and of obese/overweight non-diabetic cats of a similar age. Faecal samples were obtained from 82 privately-owned cats from Denmark and Switzerland.

The researchers received interdisciplinary input from researchers in other fields. They collaborated with leading researchers from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research and the Natural History Museum of Denmark. The collaboration provided the veterinary experts with valuable ideas on genetics across species as well as gut bacteria and diabetes in humans.

“We would not have been able to complete this study without interdisciplinary collaboration. It has really strengthened our results that we have been able to get feedback in the process and develop the study design together with experts from different fields,” says Professor Charlotte Reinhard Bjørnvad from the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen.

The researchers found that the gut microbiota of diabetic cats exhibits reduced diversity compared with healthy lean as well as overweight/obese cats. The difference in diversity became more distinct compared to the overweight/obese group after a four-week intervention with a high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet. Several of the bacterial genera which were decreased in the diabetic cats compared to the healthy lean cats are known to be producers of butyrate, a short chain fatty acid.

In the future, the researchers hope to be able to use studies like this one to better understand and treat diabetes in cats, while perhaps at the same time enhancing knowledge of glucose metabolism and diabetes in humans.

“We hope that more researchers want to collaborate on studying diabetes in cats, because in some respects these studies are easier to control than studies involving humans. You can control the nutrition of the cats meticulously and thus remove any disturbing elements and, with fewer animals, get more stable results,” said Charlotte Reinhard Bjørnvad.

In addition, the researchers are now trying to establish a complete library of intestinal bacteria in cats. To do so they will continue to collaborate with the researchers from the Natural History Museum of Denmark.

Article: Kieler, I.N., Osto, M., Hugentobler, L., Puetz, L., Gilbert, M.T.P., Hansen, T., Pedersen, O., Reusch, C.E., Zini, E., Lutz, T.A., Bjørnvad, C.R. (2019). Diabetic cats have decreased gut microbial diversity and a lack of butyrate producing bacteria. Scientific Reports 9:4822, doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-41195-0

Article details

  • Date
  • 11 June 2019
  • Source
  • University of Copenhagen
  • Subject(s)
  • Dogs, Cats, and other Companion Animals