So, you all know we’re just social care and transport systems for Our Microbial Overlords, the number of whose cells we carry on and in us outnumber our own but 10 to 100-fold, right? Anyway, if our relationship with them falls into disharmony it can cause problems. If bowel flora get somewhere they shouldn’t (like the urinary tract) they can cause an infection.

Likewise, if the gut microbiota are killed off by – for example – collateral damage from oral, broad spectrum antibiotics it can cause real problems. It enables spore-formers like C.diff – usually kept in check by the thousands of other competing species – to go nuts and multiply like wildfire. Then you get C. diff -associated disease (CDAD), a truly horrible, undignified and unpleasant complication. It can be very difficult to shift. But a new paper adds further weight to a procedure know as stool transplant therapy – or more properly Faecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT).

Let’s just let that one sink in. Yes, a turd transplant.

No, they don’t tell you to lean forward and relax then shove a brown bum banana back up your Chocolate Starfish when you’re least expecting it, they get a sample from a family member (whose gut microflora will most closely resemble your own), carefully prep it and them reintroduce it via nasogastric tube or endoscopically. And it’s really, really successful at re-populating your gut. I’ve written about probiotic supplements before but a Sphincter Spear Smoothie can be far better for your bowel health that any off-the-shelf supplement.

It looks like the procedure may well have utility in treating a wider range of GI disorders; apparently 70% of those who received FMT for refractory IBS showed improvement.  Similar results were seen for both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s.

Blame Your Mother

So, we’re born sterile and in the first few hours and days of life we pick up our bowel microbiota principally from our mothers but also from family and the environment. Everything is covered with fine veneer of poop. Get used to it.

Anyway, in another fascinating paper by looking at the bowel flora of premature babies it was shown that Our Microbial Overlords assemble in an orderly, choreographed fashion, and the pace of that assembly is slowest in the most premature. The really fascinating point is the many variables – age, how premature, diet, antibiotic exposure or other environmental factors – only affected the rate of colonisation by the three principal groups of bacteria, not the order. In all cases it goes bacilli, then γ-proteobacteria then the clostridia.

It’s long been known that our gut microbiota are remarkably stable throughout our life – save for the odd antibiotic-induced Nuclear Winter (which is another reason probiotics are, well, poo) – and those pioneering species early in life tend to stay the same. We all have similar but slightly different gut microbiota. But this research might give us a window on preventing diseases like necrotizing enterocolitis which can be fatal in a baby – which is possibly linked with the number of  γ-proteobacteria if you look at the data.

So, more victories for the study of what we flush away without a second thought.

Microbiology and poop. The gifts that keep on giving…