Fecal transplants can ease the distressing and painful symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A large, randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial found that fecal microbiota transplantation considerably enhanced IBS symptoms in nearly half the patients. The study was presented by lead researcher Magdy El-Salhy, Professor, Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Bergen, Norway.
An estimated 10 to 15% of Americans have IBS, as per the American College of Gastroenterology. Symptoms can comprise bloating and abdominal cramping, as well as diarrhea and constipation. Even though the condition can cause significant discomfort and pain, it does not result in any damage to the intestines. The cause of IBS is still unknown, but some researchers have recommended that it might be associated with abnormalities in the microbiome, the plethora of microorganisms that infect the gut. Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) or Fecal transplants work by repopulating the gut with a better array of microorganisms. Stool from a donor is first processed and then transplanted into the gut of the recipient.
To see whether FMT could calm IBS symptoms, El-Salhy and his colleagues recruited around 167 patients who had been diagnosed with the condition as well as who experienced moderate to stern symptoms. Before treatment, the patients were asked in detail about their specific symptoms. They were randomly assigned to obtain around 30 grams of a solution containing their feces: the placebo or one of two doses containing feces from a super donor. The doses were delivered to the small intestine by a tube inserted in the mouth & down the throat. After three months, the patients were again asked to check their symptoms.
Compared to before treatment, 23.5% of patients in the placebo group reported moderate symptom development. In the group that received the lower dose of super donor feces, 75.9% reported a reasonable response and 89.2% in the higher dose group. One year later, El-Salhy stated that the effects appear to have lasted. The preliminary results suggest that 95% of the patients who responded are still doing well, and about 50% have been cured. “We had a carefully selected donor from several candidates who had traits known to affect intestinal microbiota positively,” El-Salhy said. It is still not clear what role gut bacteria play in IBS, and a majority of the available research shows that the microbiome of individuals with IBS is similar to that of healthy individuals.