Look, us mere mortals never really get to find out what is going on in the world of science, well, not unless it’s (sometimes) sensationalised in the press. So, we wanted to bring you a snapshot of the latest science to whet your appetite to find out more if it’s something that piques your interest, or simply to keep you all in the “gut world” loop. Remember most of the studies are VERY new science, so keep your critical thinking cap on!
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a condition that affects the gut and its symptoms include constipation, diarrhoea, or abdominal pain. It affects around 11% of the world population and it is more common among women. Currently, there are no treatments for IBS.
Previous studies have shown that people with IBS have a less diverse gut bacteria composition when compared to healthy people. There is a recent and ground-breaking technique, called Faecal Microbiota Transplant, or FMT. This nvolves transferring stool samples from a healthy donor to a patient could be a potential cure for IBS. Indeed, FMT is now the standard cure for people with C.difficile infection (a hospital-acquired infection that affects the gut). And it has also been trialed to see the effect on those who are obese. Patients who receive an FMT report beneficial changes in their gut bacteria, metabolism, and overall health.
This study was published in Gut journal in December 2019, It looked at the impact of FMT from a healthy donor on IBS symptoms in people with mild and moderate IBS.
Type of study
This was a double-blinded (the researchers and patients were blinded to the type of treatment used to avoid bias) placebo-controlled trial of 165 patients. Patients had mild and moderate IBS who were randomly divided into 3 treatment groups. 55 received placebo (30g of own faeces), 55 received 30g of faeces from a healthy donor, and 55 received 60g of faeces from the same healthy donor. The healthy donor was a physically active person who hardly ever took antibiotics in their lifetime. They consumed a healthy diet and was free of any infectious diseases. After they received the transplant, the patients were followed-up for 3 months. During this time they completed questionnaires related to their IBS symptoms and provided stool samples to have their gut bacteria assessed.
Around 77% of participants who received 30g of stools from the donor and 89% of patients who received 60g of stool from the same donor reported an improvement in their IBS symptoms during the follow-up. However, only 23% of participants who received their own faeces reported an improvement in IBS symptoms. Those who reported improvement, no longer suffered from fatigue, abdominal problems and their overall quality of life improved. Those who received the FMT from the healthy donor had a higher gut bacteria diversity compared to before FMT.
There were only 165 participants in this study and were followed-up for only 3 months after they received the FMT and therefore we don’t yet know whether the benefits seen so far will be long-term.
This study showed that faecal microbiota transplant (FMT) from a healthy donor may alleviate the symptoms of people with mild and moderate IBS during a 3-month follow-up but what is not known, is the long-term effect and if there are any adverse effects such as effect on DNA expression.