‘Stool banks’ may help fecal transplants treat disease, study finds


Fecal transplantation is exactly what it sounds like – the process of transferring stool from one individual into the gastrointestinal (GI) tract of another, to treat a health condition the recipient is suffering from. The procedure works because it helps replenish gut bacteria that are lost to antibiotics or otherwise compromised in the recipient.

There is another way to use it in case of incompatibility between the donor and the recipient. In a process called autologous fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), scientists collect a person’s own stool when they were healthier and younger. The stool is used later to be transplanted into their body and help restore the balance of gut microbes. And according to a new study, these self-transferring fecal transplants can help us if we start investing in “stool banks” – an inventory of sorts to collect stool samples from everyone while they’re young and old. healthy as a procedure.

Published Thursday in the newspaper Trends in Molecular Medicine, research highlights the underappreciated benefits of fecal transport on gut health. Gut microbes are essential for our healthy survival, but the environment and pace of modern life alters the delicate makeup of these bacterial communities in our gastrointestinal tracts almost irreversibly, the study notes.

Currently, faecal transplantation is used to treat C. difficile colitis – a complication resulting from antibiotic treatments that kill “good” intestinal bacteria. Until recently, this was the only condition for which fecal transplants were somewhat common procedures. But having someone else poop presented its own set of problems. It is already difficult to find the right donors for organ transplants. Moreover, fecal transplantation also requires the alignment of cultural factors in addition to biological factors for it to actually work. “Resaving the human gut microbiome by transplanting the entire gut microbial community from donors into non-industrial societies may result in a dramatic mismatch between our industrial environment/lifestyles and the ancestral microbiome,” the study authors write.

So the idea of ​​having people “hoard” their own stools to protect their future is new. “Autologous FMTs have the potential to treat autoimmune diseases such as asthma, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, Diabetesobesity and even heart disease and aging,” said study co-author Scott T. Weiss of Harvard University.

Essentially, we would invest our resources in a “microbial Noah’s Ark” – not only to treat current ailments, but also to keep a record of the ever-changing history of our gut microbes as the environments we live in continue to change.

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“Conceptually, the idea of ​​stool banking for autologous FMT is similar to that of parents store their baby’s cord blood for possible future use… However, there is greater potential for stool banking, and we anticipate the likelihood of using stool samples to be much higher than for cord blood,” systems biologist Yang- Yu Liu of Harvard University, who also participated in the study, added.

The history of FMT goes back to the 4th Century, and is currently being investigated for applications outside of conditions involving the gastrointestinal tract. For example, emerging research suggests that disrupting the makeup of gut microbes in our bodies can lead to other serious long-term conditions, including certain cancers and cardiometabolic diseases, according to a 2021 study. study.

There are also other competing studies documenting the ever-increasing threats to our gut microbes; some stress their crucial importance for our general well-being. A recent article show how city dwellers may have lost half their gut microbes; another one noted that westernization has an impact on the diversity of intestinal microbes. Additionally, many debilitating diseases such as ulcerative colitis have been associated with faded away microbes in the gut.

Fecal transplants – especially autologous ones, then – can step in to reverse some of the damage we incur to our gut bacterial communities due to exposure to harmful environments.

But the researchers are careful to point out that the process cannot be used to treat autoimmune diseases with early disturbances in the gut microbiome, or anything with a genetic predisposition, such as Crohn’s disease.

Yet such a move could “protect the long-term health of humanity,” the scientists write. Banks of saddles that people can donate to others already exist; the researchers recommend reusing them to accommodate stool samples for autologous FMTs in the future.

But simply preserving the samples is not the end of the story. “Other synergistic strategies (e.g., dietary intervention and lifestyle change) may need to be taken simultaneously with autologous FMT to minimize environmental differences between the time of stool specimen collection and that of autologous FMT to further improve engraftment and improve the efficacy of autologous FMT.”


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