UNE's Glenn Stevenson authors paper investigating link between antibiotic use and inflammatory pain reduction

Included are 10 current and former UNE undergraduate students

Stevenson and undergraduate research students Philomena Richard, Sarah Couture, Emily Payne
Stevenson is pictured in his lab with former undergraduate students (L-R) Philomena Richard ’18 (Neuroscience), Sarah Couture ’18 (Medical Biology), and Emily Payne ’19 (Medical Biology), who are all co-authors on the latest study.

Glenn Stevenson, Ph.D., professor of psychology within the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, recently published a paper on gut microbiome modulation of inflammatory pain co-authored by 10 current and former UNE undergraduate students.

The paper, “Effects of vancomycin on persistent pain-stimulated and pain-depressed behaviors in female Fischer rats with or without voluntary access to running wheels,” was published in a high-impact, peer-reviewed journal, The Journal of Pain, which is the journal of The United States Association for the Study of Pain.

The research paper examines the impact of antibiotics on the gut microbiome and how antibiotic use can alter inflammatory pain in subjects with or without access to exercise.

Co-authors included Elliot Friedman, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine Division of Gastroenterology, and Lisa Mattei, Ph.D., Jung-Jin Lee, Ph.D., and Kyle Bittinger, Ph.D., from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Microbiome Center and Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition. Additional co-authors included long-term collaborators with the Stevenson Lab, UNE College of Osteopathic Medicine faculty Meghan May, Ph.D., M.S., professor of microbiology and infectious disease, and Tamara King, Ph.D., professor of physiology.

Also included are Denise Giuvelis, B.S., manager of the UNE COBRE Behavior Core, Sebastian Sannajust, B.S., former lab manager of King’s, and Bahman Rostama, Ph.D., former post-doctoral fellow in May’s lab

According to Stevenson, this is the first publication to assess how antibiotic-induced changes to the gut microbiome impact inflammatory pain distal to the gut (in the limbs, for example), using behavioral procedures developed in the Stevenson Lab.

Results from this study indicate that the glycopeptide antibiotic vancomycin decreases pain-related behaviors and that manipulation of the gut microbiome may be one method to attenuate inflammatory pain amplitude. Additionally, results indicated that a causal mechanism for this reduction in pain may be due to an antibiotic-induced shift in gut amino acid concentrations.

The research for this study took four years to complete, Stevenson said, adding that the link between amino acids and pain reduction is “highly novel.”

All 10 of the current and former undergraduate students who co-authored the paper are or were student researchers in the Stevenson Lab. Additionally, the designation of first author went to Emily Payne ’19 (Medical Biology), a student of Stevenson’s.

Additional student co-authors included Kylee Harrington ’20 (Neuroscience); Philomena Richard ’18 (Neuroscience); Rebecca Brackin ’19 (Medical Biology); Ravin Davis (Neuroscience, ’21); Sarah Couture ’18 (Medical Biology); Jacob Liff ’19 (Neuroscience); Francesca Asmus (Neuroscience, ’22); Elizabeth Mutina ’20 (Neuroscience); and Anyssa Fisher ’19 (Neuroscience).

“This is another example of the high-quality, high-impact research that our UNE undergraduate students are engaged in daily,” Stevenson said. “These co-authorships go a long way toward securing post-graduate positions for our students.”

Stevenson also spoke of the interprofessional nature of the research.

“This publication represents a highly interdisciplinary research team with expertise in genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, pharmacology, psychology, neuroscience, microbiology, and virology,” he commented. “When you put all these disciplines together to solve a single problem, you end up doing innovative, creative, and significant work. The main ideas for this research were generated in meetings between me, Meghan [May] and Tamara [King]. I then reached out to Penn and Children’s Hospital researchers who subsequently joined our group, and the rest is history.”

Funding for the research was provided by a COBRE Pilot grant to Stevenson and May and a Behavioral Core grant to Stevenson.