According to a story from VC Reporter, Dr. Sabine Hazan-Steinberg is a true believer in the medical capabilities of fecal microbial transplant (FMT). Despite the fact that this procedure has the potential to be useful in treating a variety of diseases, the procedure is currently only officially approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for recurring cases of Clostridium difficile infection. Dr. Hazan-Steinberg is part of an investigation headed by the agency that will focus on understanding how FMT works.
About Fecal Microbial Transplant (FMT)
So what exactly is fecal microbial transplant? To the average person, this may sound like a disturbing procedure. After all, feces is another word for poop, right? How can feces be used as medicine? Well it absolutely can be. The process effectively involves transplanting a small amount of excrement from a healthy donor into a person that has an infection or other ailment. The bacteria from the transplant then expand in population and shift the balance of the patient’s gut microbiota and allows for healthier function of their digestive tract and beyond.
The effectiveness of FMT is rooted in research that has begun to bring to light just how important the status of the bacterial populations in our intestines are. While bacteria are often characterized in the popular imagination as a hostile cause of disease, our bodies are host to huge numbers of bacteria which are essential for the normal function of our digestive system and our overall health. Imbalances in the gut microbiome have even been connected to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
FMT is being tested as a treatment for a number of health issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome, certain cancers, ulcerative colitis, and urinary tract infections. Dr. Hazan-Steinberg says that the use of feces to treat digestive system problems is actually far from a new concept. There are examples of its use as far back as 4th century China.
Researchers are also investigating the possibility of using FMT for cardiovascular disease, obesity, and high blood pressure. Part of this ongoing study concerns the importance of donors. It makes sense for donations to be from people that are generally healthy, but everyone’s gut microbiome is distinctive. It may be that it matters more for certain diseases than it does for others.