Researchers led by Nicola Wilck and Dominik Müller from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) found that salt reduces the number of certain lactic acid bacteria in the gut of mice and humans. Their findings have now been published in Nature. The researchers were able to show that excess salt decimates lactobacilli in the gut. At the same time there was an increase in blood pressure and in the number of Th17 cells in the blood. These immune cells are associated with hypertension and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis. When the animals were given probiotic lactobacilli in addition to the high-salt diet, the number of Th17 helper cells fell once again and the blood pressure dropped. The probiotics also reduced the neurological symptoms of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, a model of multiple sclerosis. In human test subjects, too, the gut bacteria responded sensitively to increased salt intake. The investigators found that the blood pressure rose and the number of Th17 helper cells in the blood increased at the same time. Whether lactobacillus probiotics have therapeutic potential in the treatment of salt-sensitive diseases will be the subject of further studies.