RESEARCHERS were shocked after a probiotic already available in shops showed "remarkable" abilities to prevent and even destroy toxic protein clumps linked to the onset of Parkinson's disease.

Scientists at the universities of Edinburgh and Dundee want to launch human clinical trials with the bacteria as soon as possible amid hopes that the discovery could pave the way to a dietary-based intervention to halt the progression of the disease.

So far the results have only been demonstrated in roundworms, but the findings are the latest evidence of a relationship between the gut and Parkinson's disease.

READ MORE: Parkinson's disease proteins 'spread from gut to brain'

It is already known that the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease become riddled with a build-up of mis-folded proteins called alpha-synuclein, which form toxic clumps.

These clumps are associated with the death of neurons responsible for producing the pleasure hormone, dopamine.

The loss of these cells causes the motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s, including freezing, tremors and slowness of movement.

However, these clumps have also been found in the gut, leading to the theory that they may spread from from the digestive system to the brain.

When roundworms engineered to mimic Parkinson's were fed bacteria from various over-the-counter probiotics, they found that Bacillus subtilis - known to boost digestive health - protected against the build-up of this protein and also cleared some existing clumps.

Movement symptoms in the roundworms improved. It is the first time that this particular bacteria has been shown to have a positive effect on the protein involved in Parkinson's.

Lead researcher, Dr Maria Doitsidou, from the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences at Edinburgh University, said: "We purchased all kinds of probiotics supplements - yoghurts, drinks, probiotic capsules - and we isolated the bacteria that were found in these products, then we tested them out in our roundworms and looked to see whether they had any effect.

"And to our surprise we found that Bacillus subtilis showed a remarkable effect in stopping the build up of these toxic clumps."

Dr Doitsidou said more work is needed to prove that the effects can be replicated in humans.

She said: "If our findings are proven to hold true for humans then this could open up possibilities for diet-based interventions that may halt symptoms or progression.

"But this work was done in roundworms and it needs to be confirmed in mice and humans."

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If the mice study is successful, patients already diagnosed with Parkinson's disease will be recruited for a clinical trial testing the probiotic against a placebo.

Research into the microbiome - the community of bacteria in the gut - is one of the fastest growing areas in science.

Links have been suggested between everything from obesity to depression, as well as other motor disorders such as motor neurone disease.

Although genetics play a part, diet is the main influence on the composition of the microbiome.

Eating a varied diet with lots of fruit and vegetables, high fibre foodstuffs and fermented products as sauerkraut is known to promote a healthy microbiome.

Dr Beckie Port, research manager at Parkinson’s UK, said: “Parkinson’s is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world.

"Currently there is no treatment that can slow, reverse or protect someone from its progression but by funding projects like this, we’re bringing forward the day when there will be.

"Changes in the microorganisms in the gut are believed to play a role in the initiation of Parkinson’s in some cases and are linked to certain symptoms, that's why there is ongoing research into gut health and probiotics.

“The results from this study are exciting as they show a link between bacteria in the gut and the protein at the heart of Parkinson's.

Studies that identify bacteria that are beneficial in Parkinson's have the potential to not only improve symptoms but could even protect people from developing the condition in the first place.”