Report from the 4th International Symposium on Human Gut Microbiota in Health and Disease in Mexico City

This was the 4th symposium held in Mexico on the role of the intestinal microbiota in health and disease. The topics explored during the meeting were diverse; in general, they discussed the current evidence for microbiota modulation in health and disease, with special focus on nutrition, including probiotics, and intestinal and metabolic disorders.

I presented specifically on the role of the microbiota in the maintenance of a balanced immune system and its importance in the development of chronic inflammatory disorders of the GI tract, such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease.

Other lectures [by local and international speakers] discussed the evidence supporting the mutualistic relationship between host and intestinal microbes, which shapes host physiology and maintains gut homeostasis. There was a discussion of the concept that this relationship exists on a ‘continuum’ between mutualism and pathogenicity, and that this has relevance to microbiota modulation and the onset of inflammatory disorders.

Although alteration in intestinal microbiota composition has been associated with chronic GI diseases such as IBD, IBS and celiac disease, the relationship remains based on association. Evidence from basic research and animal models support the concept that certain bacteria can encourage inflammation while others protect against it. In particular, results from a study recently published in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (Natividad, et al., 2015) showed that colonization of germ-free mice with microbiota low in Firmicutes (notably, Lachnospiraceae and Ruminococcaceae) derived from subjects with active ulcerative colitis, promoted expression of TH17-related genes, encouraging pathogenic characteristics. Although these specific patient-derived ecosystems were insufficient to induce spontaneous inflammation, they affected the immune response such that the molecular, low-grade inflammation led to more severe experimental colitis in mice. The results suggest that the efficacy of fecal transplantation strategies in ulcerative colitis may benefit from the inclusion of Lachnospiraceae and Ruminococcaceae families or the selection of healthy donors that have good representation of these families in the transplantation material.

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SympoMex15click on picture to enlarge
Elena Verdú
Elena Verdú
Dr. Verdu’s research has focused on the pathophysiology of inflammatory and functional gastrointestinal disorders. She undertook clinical research training at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, where she studied the interaction between chronic infection with Helicobacter pylori and gastritis in humans and the possible therapeutic role of probiotic bacteria. Her PhD studies in the Institute of Microbiology and Gnotobiology at the Czech Academy of Science and University of Lausanne focused on the effect of bacterial antigens in animal models of inflammatory bowel disease. As a post-doctoral fellow at McMaster University she gained experience with animal models of gut functional diseases and investigated the mechanisms of action of probiotic bacteria. As a member of the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute at McMaster University, Dr. Verdu investigates host-microbial and dietary interactions in the context of celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. She has been honored with the New Investigator Award (Canadian Celiac Association), the New Investigator Award (Functional Gut-Brain Research Group, USA) and the Campbell Research Award in celiac disease (Canadian Celiac Association). The American Gastroenterology Association and the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology have awarded her the “Master’s in Gastroenterology Award” for basic science and “Young Investigator’s Award”, respectively. She is Associate Professor at the Division of Gastroenterology, Dep. of Medicine at McMaster University and currently directs the Axenic Gnotobiotic Unit at McMaster.