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Cataloging the human gut microbiome

Here's a very interesting, short interview about the role of gut microbes on everything from disease to obesity. Most have probably heard of the Human Genome Project, which maps the DNA of the human body. The scientist interviewed is working to catalog the genomes of all microbes found in and on the human body (and there are trillions, each of us actually carries more microbe cells than HUMAN cells), particularly in the gut. He's also working to treat conditions with microbes, but not via probiotics, but by actually transplanting the complete fecal microbe community of a healthy subject into one who is ill. Very intriguing, I don't know why no one thought of this before.

Very interesting! I can definitely see this being an interesting avenue to pursue for acute illnesses such as infection (as mentioned in the article), but I don't know how realistic transplanting a microbiome from human to human in the context of a chronic illness such as CD would be since exposure to different environmental factors (such as diet, body temperature, circadian rhythms, pollution exposure, etc.) would likely have an unavoidable and pronounced effect on the types of microbes selected for in one's gut over time. These environmental effects, I imagine, would gradually cause the microbiome-recipient to gradually shift back to a microbial community more in line with what he/she started with, despite the initial transplant. For chronic issues like CD, then, you'd need to repeatedly transplant the microbiome, which might do more harm than good. For example, if CD turns out to be an inappropriate response of the immune system to the gut microbiome, transplants might make inflammation worse since you expose the immune system to entirely new sets of flora repeatedly.

All of this is humble speculation on my part - I do hope I'm wrong and he finds something to help us!
Cally - Glad you found the interview interesting.

I'm guessing that the tendencies of one's particular immune system would be a greater factor in the gut flora "reverting" than the variables you mention, with diet being a possible exception. On the other hand, I can also envision the change in microbe population being permanent (or close to it) for a large number of individuals. Whether or not this would produce significant clinical improvement is another question, of course. But if it did, and even if the patient did have to have the flora "realigned" periodically (perhaps even as frequently as every 6 months), and this enabled a normal life without highly toxic medication, it would be a major improvement for a huge number of patients. More research is needed, but this strikes me as an approach with great potential and relatively minimal adverse effects.


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Wow David, I was actually able to understand that one!!! And you are right, it does somehow seem kind of basic.

They already tried it with the Chlostridium Difficile thing!!! I wonder if that's a clinical trial or since there are no meds involved can they try anything without approval??

As always David...I'm glad you are out there!!!