Monday, 9 May 2016

Bugs as drugs: harnessing novel gut bacteria for human health

Dr Samuel Forster
Researchers are optimistic that a recent breakthrough allowing growth of the majority of human gut bacteria in the lab will lead to the development of new therapies to replace the use of faecal transplants in treating certain gut infections.
Scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, including Dr Samuel Forster, an NHMRC C.J. Martin Biomedical Overseas Fellow from Hudson Institute of Medical Research's Centre for Innate Immunity and Infectious Diseases in Melbourne, have grown and catalogued more than 130 bacteria from the human intestine according to a study published in Nature last week.

The researchers have developed a process to grow the majority of bacteria from the gut, which will enable scientists to understand how our bacterial ‘microbiome’ helps keep us healthy. Imbalances in our gut microbiome can contribute to complex conditions and diseases such as obesity, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and allergies. This research will allow scientists to start to create tailor-made treatments with specific beneficial bacteria.

Research in this field has expanded greatly in recent years with the intestinal microbiome being termed a ‘forgotten organ’, such is its importance to human health. Approximately 2 per cent of a person’s body weight is due to bacteria. Many of these bacteria are sensitive to oxygen and are difficult to culture in the laboratory, so until now it has been extremely difficult to isolate and study them. Read more here.

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