Two primary goals of translational microbiota research are (1) to alter the gut microbiota in a beneficial manner and (2) to do so in a way that lasts.
In patients with liver disease, hyperammonemia-associated neurotoxicity and encephalopathy occurs when bacterial urease in the intestine converts urea from the host into ammonia and carbon dioxide. Researchers in this study wanted to interfere with this process by engineering the gut microbiota of mice to reduce urease activity. First, they wiped out the existing gut microbiota of the mice, and then they inoculated mice with altered Schaedler flora (ASF) — a defined consortium of 8 bacteria with minimal urease gene content.
The new microbiota persisted in the mice and led to a long-term reduction in fecal urease activity and ammonia production. Also, mice with hepatic injury who received this kind of microbiota transplantation showed a lower morbidity and mortality.
The study showed that giving a defined gut microbiota to a host can lead to metabolic changes that last and that have positive health effects. This shows the potential of a modified method of fecal microbiota transplantation (referred to as ‘ecobiotherapy‘) to have beneficial effects on health.
Paul Enck Prof. Dr. Paul Enck, Director of Research, Dept. of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Tübingen, Germany.
His main interests are gut functions in health and disease, including functional and inflammatory bowel disorders, the role of the gut microbiota, regulation of eating and food intake and its disorders, of nausea, vomiting and motion sickness, and the psychophysiology and neurobiology of the placebo response, with specific emphasis on age and gender contributions.
He has published more than 170 original data paper in scientific, peer-reviewed journals, and more than 250 book chapters and review articles. He is board member/treasurer of the European Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility and of the German Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, and has served as reviewer for many international journals and grant agencies.