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McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences Newsmagazine — Volume 9, Issue 3, Fall 2015

A potential cure for ulcerative colitis

Paul Moayyedi
Paul Moayyedi
Elena Verdu
Elena Verdu

Two studies out of McMaster's Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute  show that transplantation of fecal matter may be useful in the fight against ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic, debilitating inflammatory bowel condition that causes bloody stools, diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss and malnutrition. It results from the development of abnormal immune responses to the normal bacteria in the digestive tract. It is difficult to treat and standard therapy doesn't always work.

There is currently great interest in treating UC with fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), which involves transplanting gut fecal bacteria from healthy people into patients with UC.

A study published in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases and led by Elena Verdu, an associate professor of medicine, found that UC can be controlled by the type of bacteria that inhabits the gut.

"Our animal research provides insight that selected bacterial groups, involved in gut health, are important for protecting the colon against injury and inflammation," said Verdu.

Along the same theme, in research published in Gastroenterology, professor of medicine Paul Moayyedi and his team explored the safety and efficacy of FMT by conducting a placebo-controlled, randomized trial.

FMT induces remission in a significantly greater percentage of patients with active UC than placebo.

— Paul Moayyedi and his research team

"Our study in patients with ulcerative colitis is the first randomized trial of fecal microbiota transplantation in adults with ulcerative colitis and shows that this therapy may work," said Moayyedi. "The effect of fecal transplant seems to be dependent on the sort of bacteria that is in the donor stool, which fits with the observations of Dr. Verdu's animal study."