Updated: 2012-02-01 16:45:00 CST
Unhealthy liver panel test results are generally thought to be the consequence of lifestyle factors. Obesity and excessive alcohol consumption can damage the organ and impair its function.
However, a new study from a team of Yale University researchers suggests that liver damage and obesity may frequently be caused by contagious microbial imbalances.
The research team showed that mice that lacked two key proteins that regulate inflammatory responses developed imbalances of microorganisms in their guts. This led to an increase in obesity and liver disease.
Furthermore, the study showed that when mice with these microbial imbalances were placed in confinements with normal mice, the healthy animals ended up developing the same disturbances, suggesting that the problem may be contagious.
On the bright side, the problems appeared to be relatively easy to treat and to reverse.
"We found, in mice, that targeted antibiotic treatment brought the microbial composition back to normal, and thus eased the liver disease," said lead researcher Richard Flavell. "Our hope is that our findings may eventually lead to a treatment for humans."
The findings could lead to a new understanding of the causes of obesity and unhealthy liver panel tests, which may lead to improved treatments.