For patients in hospitals and nursing homes who have been taking antibiotics for a long period of time, C. difficile infection is a common complication. Recurring C. difficile infections may be alleviated by an intestinal transplant, according to a new study from the University of Virginia School of Medicine. The transplantation of healthy feces into patients with C. difficile promotes the growth of healthy gut bacteria and eases the symptoms of infections.
The Immune – Gut Connection
Certain combinations of microorganisms in the gut seem to enhance the overall gut microbiome quicker than others. A particular immune system may be the cause of these differences, researchers say. In order to avoid C. difficile re-infections, it is critical to determine what immunological responses vary in patients who have had fecal transplants.
“Even though we know that fecal microbiota transplants can treat recurrent C. difficile infection, we don’t know exactly why some microbe combinations work better than others or why the same combinations can have different effects on different people. We believe that this variability stems from each person’s immune system being unique. That is why it is important for us to find out what immune markers change in patients where fecal microbiota transplantation was successful in preventing C. difficile re-infections,” says researcher Ning-Jiun “Ninj” Jan, in a statement. Jan is a researcher at UVA’s Division of Infectious Disease and International Health.
“Finding that a specific immune signaling molecule, IL-25, was increased in successful fecal microbiota transplantations indicated that maybe IL-25 can be used as an adjunctive therapy for treating C. difficile infection,” Jan adds. Jan works as a research scientist in the UVA lab of Chelsea Marie, Ph.D.
Marie, Jan, and their colleagues studied blood and colon tissue samples taken from C. difficile patients at the time of their transplants and again 60 days later in order to better understand the effects of fecal transplants on those patients.
IL-25, an essential immune system agent, was discovered to be raised in the patients’ colons after transplantation. IL-25 is a cytokine that triggers our immune system’s reaction to outside invaders. Because of this, tissue inflammation decreased as IL-25 escalated. The researchers discovered that the transplants also boosted the variety of bacteria that normally inhabit our colons. Previous studies have shown the importance of a diverse set of microbiota to maintain overall health.
The modifications induced by fecal transplants, including favorable alterations in the activation of particular genes, improve an individual’s immune system’s capacity to combat recurrent C. difficile infections, according to the researchers. Doctors may be able to boost the effects of fecal transplants by employing additional techniques to stimulate IL-25 in patients with recurrent C. difficile.
“In the future, it may be possible to combine fecal microbiota transplants with cytokine-based therapies to increase the success rate of treatment,” Jan adds. “There is a lot of interplay between our immune system and our intestinal microbes, and it’s exciting that understanding their relationship is helping us find new therapies.”This study is published in mSphere.