Could GM differences in people with IBD lead to specific treatments?

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By The Gut Health Doctor Team

Dr Megan Rossi in a lab looking through a microscope

Altering our GM (gut microbiota) has been proposed as a treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD, as evidence suggests our gut microbiome plays an important role.

But could differences in the gut microbiota (GM) of people with IBD lead to specific microbe-based treatments? A new review suggests maybe…but we’re not there yet!

What did they do?

Researchers pooled the results from 48 studies with over 2000 IBD patients, looking at differences in specific gut microbes between those with IBD vs healthy participants.


What did they find?

  • All the studies found differences in the GM of IBD patients and healthy controls, but these differences varied (exactly why I do NOT recommend commercial bacteria tests just yet).

  • 75% of studies in Crohn’s showed a significant decrease in GM diversity, while for UC this was found in 29% of studies.

  • IBD patients had an increase of E.coli, possibly indicating previous infection or a change in the gut environment (this does NOT mean all E.coli are bad, some are actually probiotics!).

  • 3 specific types of bacteria were decreased in people with Crohn’s, while 2 other specific types were decreased in those with UC (see image).

  • Both Crohn’s and UC had a reduction in a specific type of bacteria (called F prausnitzii), which may suggest a ‘protective’ role. That’s because it’s thought to be a main producer of a beneficial substance (a short-chain fatty acid called butyrate) that supports digestive health and may help with inflammation.

BUT with many studies showing different results and using different methods, more large-scale studies need to be done before making concrete conclusions or personalised recommendations.

Ref: Pittayanon et al, Gastroenterology, 2020.


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