Differences in the composition of gut microbiota in health and disease are providing new ways of deciphering mechanisms of digestive diseases, e.g. inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Another way of exploring the role of gut microbiota in health and disease is to monitor the generated metabolites.
A study carried out by Bjerrum and collaborators employed a spectroscopy-based metabolic profiling of faecal extracts from healthy subjects and patients with active or inactive ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease (CD) to characterize the faecal metabolome in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). All stool samples were analysed by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy followed by multivariate data analyses. The results obtained showed metabolites that belong to amino acids, microbiota-related short-chain fatty acids and lactate characteristics of an inflammation-driven malabsorption and dysbiosis of the normal bacterial ecology.
To conclude, the authors pointed out the possibilities and limitations held by this technique. On the positive side, nuclear magnetic resonance seems to be a potential non-invasive diagnostic tool that permitted to characterize metabolites reflecting gut inflammation. Less positively, however, there were limits to the method’s ability to discriminate between active and inactive UC, CD and healthy controls, due to patients with either surgery or anti-TNF-alpha antibody treatment had the largest differences.
Bjerrum JT, et al. (2015) Metabonomics of human fecal extracts characterize ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and healthy individuals. Metabolomics 11(1), pp. 122-133. doi:10. 1007/ s11306-014-0677-3