The human microbiome is a complex and fascinating world of tiny creatures that we’re still learning so much about. These microscopic organisms perform countless chemical processes, some of which are yet to be discovered. It’s incredible to think that trillions of microbes, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, are all interacting with our bodies, outnumbering our own cells.
The importance of the microbiome
While most of these microbes are actually good for us and help protect us from harmful pathogens, there are still some that can cause illnesses and contribute to chronic diseases.
Even the microbes that coexist with us in harmony can become problematic if their ratios become unbalanced, leading to a condition called dysbiosis. It’s believed that dysbiosis can contribute to inflammation and autoimmune disease, which can be challenging to manage.
There is ongoing research on the different types of microbes associated with diseases such as autism spectrum disorder, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, various cancers, and cardiovascular disease. Amidst the rising prevalence of these diseases, having a healthy microbiome is being considered as a possible solution.
This has resulted in the adoption of revolutionary ideas such as fecal transplants, which involve using donor stool to reintroduce good gut bacteria, or even a synthetic microbiome made up of lab-grown microbes. In the past year, there have been significant advancements in both methods as scientists race against the depletion of the microbiome, which has led to entire groups of bacteria disappearing from the digestive system of industrialized societies.
The US Food and Drug Administration recently approved two products for fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) that involve healthy stool being transplanted into a recipient, with one product being administered directly to the colon via colonoscopy and the other being taken orally in pill form. However, these products are only approved for use in cases of Clostridioides difficile (C. diff) infections. Another approach, which is currently in the experimental phase with rodents, is the creation of a synthetic microbiome made up of bacteria grown from scratch and mixed together to mimic a human microbiome.
Although this treatment shows promise, there are concerns about our ability to replicate such a complex microbial community that we are still trying to understand.