Reference Number: 527
The mucosal surfaces of the body are characterised by complex, specialised microbial communities, often referred to as the microbiome. However, only much more recently-with the development of technologies allowing exploration of the composition and functionality of these communities-has meaningful research in this area become feasible. Over the past few years, there has been rapid growth in interest in the gut microbiome in particular, and its potential contribution to gastrointestinal and liver disease. This interest has already extended beyond clinicians to pharmaceutical companies, medical regulators and other stakeholders, and is high profile among patients and the lay public in general. Such expansion of knowledge holds the intriguing potential for translation into novel diagnostics and therapeutics; however, being such a nascent field, there remain many uncertainties, unanswered questions and areas of debate.
Significance of this study to the baker:
The human microbiota is the term used to name the 100 trillion microbial cells inside us. The human microbiome is the term used to name the catalogue of these microbes and their genes living within a specific part of us, for example our gut – the gut microbiome. This catalogue of microbes in our gut is well known to be established at the time of our birth where there is a critical transmission of the maternal microbiome. The first few weeks of life have important effects on its future composition and there are multiple factors to determine this such as delivery of birth, early feeding, antibiotics in early life and the environment. Once developed, it is well researched that our diet is one of the most important facts contributing to the health our gut microbiome.
The gut microbiome lives with us to provide a mutual beneficial relationship. Benefits it may provide us include the shaping of our immune system, maintaining a healthy gut barrier wall, obtaining us energy from our food and protecting us against pathogens.
Should this catalogue of microbes be altered in composition / imbalanced, it is referred to as ‘dysbiosis‘. Such gut microbe changes are known to be in conjunction with gut and liver conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Liver disease and colon cancer.
This review also highlights the latest evidence for gut therapy. Prebiotics, such as dietary fibre which is ingested and fermented by our gut microbiome, are well known for their health benefits within animal models. The waste product of this fermentation is short chain fatty acids, and this review suggests that when these are given therapeutically they are found to reduce inflammation in IBD.
Probiotics, the live microorganisms, when ingested have also found to provide health benefits. This recent reviews refers to some specific strains of probiotics being helpful for ulcerative colitis (UC), and multi-strain probiotics may benefit those with IBS.
The paper also discusses the new paradigm of ‘microbiome therapeutics’ where they highlight the success of faecal microbiome transplants (FMT) in the treatment of c.difficile infections. They do highlight that there is not yet enough evidence for the use of FMT in other conditions such as IBD.