Faecal microbiota transplantation: a new treatment for irritable bowel syndrome?
A new study reveals that faecal microbiota transplantation improves the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, as well as patient quality of life, even one year after treatment. However, it is essential that the donor is in good health.
About this article
Pain, cramps, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation: irritable bowel syndrome is a disease characterised by a range of abdominal symptoms that come and go throughout the patient's life. These symptoms can be exacerbated by stress, changes in emotional state and certain foods, and have a considerable impact on patients' quality of life. While there are no anatomical or structural problems with the bowels of people who suffer from this syndrome, the finger is often pointed at the gut microbiota.
A single donor with a super microbiota?
The researchers involved in this study performed a clinical trial to test the efficacy of faecal microbiota transplantation by using stool samples from a single Caucasian man aged 36 years1 who ticked all the "super donor" boxes: in good health, normal BMI, undertaking regular exercise, born vaginally and breastfed. Even better, he was not taking any medication, had only received three antibiotic treatments during the course of his life and was regularly taking dietary supplements. In this clinical trial, faecal microbiota transplantation was found to be effective in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. However, these results were only observed three months after the transplantation, and several questions still need to be answered, particularly whether the clinical effects of the transplantation continue into the long term. In the current study, the researchers continued to monitor these patients for one year.
Benefits still present after one year
Most of the patients who responded to faecal microbiota transplantation after three months maintained their response after one year. Another encouraging result was also observed: their abdominal symptoms, fatigue and quality of life were clearly improved compared to three months after the transplantation. Even better, between 32 and 45% of the patients, depending on the group, experienced complete remission over the course of the one-year follow-up. Complete analysis of the patients' gut microbiota revealed changes in the gut bacteria profile and a significant reduction in the dysbiosis index.
In conclusion, faecal microbiota transplantation from a "super donor" can restore the gut microbiota and reduce the symptoms of patients suffering from irritable bowel disease.
1. El- Salhy M, Hatlebakk JG, Gilja OH, et al. Efficacy of faecal microbiota transplantation for pa-tients with irritable bowel syndrome in a randomised, double- blind, placebo- controlled study. Gut. 2020;69(5):856- 867.