Two gastroenterologists name the top three challenges in gut microbiota research

United European Gastroenterology (UEG) week starts today and runs until October 28th in Barcelona, Spain. UEG is a non-profit organization focused on advancing gastroenterology care, comprising 22,000 professional members from several European societies.

With the event underway, GMFH brings you the ideas of two gastroenterologist-researchers about the impact of gut microbiota science on clinical practice.

For clinicians, what are the main challenges you see when it comes to gut microbiota research?

1) Next-generation prebiotics and probiotics

Gary Wu, professor in gastroenterology at the University of Pennsylvania (USA), says, “What we have right now in the microbiota… are current pre- and probiotics, where we have a signal that they may be of benefit in certain types of diseases. But I think we could do a lot better. There are probably better strategies for the development of the next generation of pre- and probiotics that would allow us to see better [outcomes] for health.”

2) Microbial community intervention for treatment of disease

“Fecal microbiota transplantation in Clostridium difficile infection is the only proof-of-concept that we have that you can have a deep intervention of microbiota for the treatment of disease,” says Wu. “The message there is that there’s a lot more that we can do [besides] using stool as a therapeutic tool, and there are a lot of scientists thinking carefully about how to go about doing that.”

3) Translation of results into clinical practice

Gail Hecht, gastroenterology professor at Loyola University Chicago (USA) and previous UEG week attendee, says, “[It’s important] to try to help all of us translate the data we have into actionable items for patients. We’re not exactly there now.”

Hecht explains, “We have some loose ideas about pre- and probiotics. I think part of the responsibility of researchers is to try to inform clinicians as best as possible, so even though we may not have firm guidelines about how we can [manipulate] diet, or even the role of the microbiota in disease, [researchers can] at least try to spread the education about the importance of those interactions.”

She adds, “I can tell you [patients are] starved for specific recommendations… At least that thought is out there, using bugs as drugs… but [we need to] translate the data we have into actionable items for patients.”

Kristina Campbell
Kristina Campbell
Science writer Kristina Campbell (M.Sc.), from British Columbia (Canada), specializes in communicating about the gut microbiota, digestive health, and nutrition. Author of the best selling Well-Fed Microbiome Cookbook, her freelance work has appeared in publications around the world. Kristina joined the Gut Microbiota for Health publishing team in 2014.  Find her on: GoogleTwitter