Poop transplant can effectively help people with ulcerative colitis

Here‘s something you haven‘t thought about today – poop transplant. Although it sounds like a bad example of toilet humour, it is actually a real procedure, known in the medical world as Faecal microbiota transplantation. But how effective is it? Scientists from the University of Adelaide, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute decided to find out.

Histopathology of ulcerative colitis – this disease causes pain and increased risk of colon cancer. Image credit: CoRus13 via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Your guts need bacteria to work properly. Various diseases can reduce the number of bacteria in your intestines causing them to malfunction. This could lead to a variety of outcomes and none of them are good. For example, ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease which affects the lining of the large intestine and rectum. It causes huge pain and can result in bloody stools and an increased risk of colon cancer. Now scientists wanted to see if as Faecal microbiota transplantation could be an effective treatment for this condition so they 73 adults with mild to moderate active ulcerative colitis to participate in this study.

Of course, in order to reach scientific accuracy, scientists had to form a control group, which was prescribed a placebo. But what is a placebo when you’re talking about transplantation of faeces? Well, your own poo. The second group received actual pooled donor FMT. Of course, stool is always prepared for transplantation – it is processed in an oxygen-free environment. Scientists found that FMT could induce remission in ulcerative colitis. 39 % of participants who got FMT experienced remission and only 9 % of the placebo group got better. Scientists say that these results remind them of the most effective current treatments for ulcerative colitis, but many current therapies rely on suppressing the immune system.

Messing with people’s immune systems to cure ulcerative colitis typically causes adverse side effects. FMT doesn’t really have side effects and doesn’t make patients feel weak or terribly ill. But why the anaerobic treatment, you may ask. Dr Sam Costello, lead author of the study, explained: “Many gut bacteria die with exposure to oxygen and we know that with anaerobic stool processing a large number of donor bacteria survive so that they can be administered to the patient. We believe that this may be the reason that we had a good therapeutic effect with only a small number of treatments”.

Interestingly, despite FMT working so well, scientists are looking for a better and less smelly option. They want to create therapies that would be as simple as taking a pill. Bacteria in a pill are not an easy thing to achieve, but these microbial therapies would eliminate the need to take whole faeces. This kind of treatment would be much easier and less time consuming.

 

Source: University of Adelaide


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