The exact cause of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) remains unclear, but more and more evidence suggests the gut microbiome contributes to disease pathogenesis.

Can the gut microbiota be a target for therapy, then? Doctors and patients alike are becoming aware of this possibility. This review by Berg, Clemente, and Colombel goes through different therapeutic options — diet, prebiotics, probiotics, antibiotics, and fecal microbiota transplantion — focusing on how each one alters the intestinal microbiota and how long its effects last.

Authors say that effecting long-term change in adult microbiome composition is proving difficult. Therapies that target the microbiota tend to trigger rapid changes, but once a therapy is discontinued, the microbiota usually revert to their original state. The authors conclude that so far, doctors’ ability to treat IBD through short-term manipulations of the gut microbiota is limited. Adjustments to current therapies may render them more effective in the future.


Berg D, Clemente JC, Colombel JF. Can inflammatory bowel disease be permanently treated with short-term interventions on the microbiome? Expert Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2015 Jun;9(6):781-95. doi: 10.1586/17474124.2015.1013031.