Faecal transplants

Faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) – the infusion of faecal matter from a healthy person into the colon of an ill person, usually by enema – aims to re-establish a “balanced intestinal flora” to a digestive system where there may be an imbalance. Now, a review has suggested that FMT might benefit chronically ill patients with autoimmune-related conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome and ME/CFS. The problem is that the review can point to just one small, uncontrolled study on CFS patients published only in abstract form 17 years ago, so there is a long evidential journey to be undertaken before FMT can be rolled out as a specific therapy for ME/ CFS patients (with or without gut problems).

Nevertheless, although the idea behind FMT is at least 50 years old, interest in the technique has been reinvigorated by recent scientific discoveries about the importance of the human microbiome, the hidden yet extensive world of the microbes that live in our bodies – see the feature in the New York Times in 2010. You never know, further revelations about the importance of the microbiome in human health and disease might bring FMT suddenly and dramatically to the fore as a treatment.

Reference: Fecal microbiota transplantation and emerging applications. Borody & Khoruts. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 2012; 9(2): 88-96.

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