E. Coli

Have We Provoked the Bugs in Our Guts?

It sounds faintly like science fiction:

A range of societal changes, including use of antibiotics and increasing consumption of food additives, have provoked microbiota aggression and, consequently, may be contributing factors to the increased incidence of obesity and its associated diseases.

Chassaing and Gewirtz, Equilibrium Between Host & MicrobiotaHave we indeed provoked more aggressive microbes to displace some of the hundreds of trillions of bacteria that peacefully and helpfully coexist with our own cells in our intestines? That is the proposition that Benoit Chassaing and Andrew Gewirtz are putting forward in a paper just published online by the journal Bioessays.

This proposition ties together a considerable body of research on the association between disruptions in the human microbiome and diseases such as obesity. Much of it is animal research.

What remains is to test the concept that “restoring a peaceful host-microbiota in persons with metabolic syndrome may be a means of restoring a healthy state.” For that, you can look to a new study getting underway at Massachusetts General Hospital. Health reporters have been showering us with headlines about “frozen poop pills” — doing a fine job of sensationalizing this interesting study.

According to lead investigator Elaine Yu, this study builds upon growing understanding of the role of microbiota in human obesity. “A small study in humans has already been done that demonstrates that altering gut bacteria affects human metabolism,” she says. The new study will be a randomized, placebo controlled study of fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) on metabolism and obesity. The FMT is administered in capsules that contains a frozen extract of fecal microbes from carefully selected lean volunteers.

Setting all the bathroom humor aside, this research holds potential to provide important new insights.

Click here to read the paper from Chassaing and Gewirtz. Click here to read more about the upcoming study in the Washington Post.

E. coli, photograph © NIAID / flickr

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January 17, 2016

7 Responses to “Have We Provoked the Bugs in Our Guts?”

  1. January 17, 2016 at 6:41 am, Joe Gitchell said:

    I worry about any “too tidy” explanation for complexity but it sure seems that this has to be a sizable piece of the puzzle.

    Fo shizzle.



    • January 17, 2016 at 7:25 am, Ted said:

      You are right in thinking that it’s just a piece of the puzzle, Joe. This RCT may reveal a lot.

  2. January 17, 2016 at 8:51 am, Lizabeth said:

    This really is interesting work. For some good video, I recommend the TedX (how convenient) Dr. John Cryan.

    Good article!

    • January 17, 2016 at 12:09 pm, Ted said:

      Thanks, Lizabeth!

  3. January 17, 2016 at 10:08 am, Allen Browne said:

    Yup! But the more we understand the pieces of the puzzle, the more we can help more people. How do you put important work like this in its place? Every little bit helps, but it’s a shame to see this sort of thing sensationalized. Oh well, keep on trudging.

  4. January 17, 2016 at 10:31 am, Borat Sagdiev said:

    Reporters sensationalizing fecal pills?? No shit?!

    • January 17, 2016 at 12:08 pm, Ted said: