Ulcerative Colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease, affects some 750,000 people in North America. In a paper published in Cell Host & Microbe (April 2020), Dr. Iliyan D. Iliev, Assistant Professor of Immunology in Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, and Dr. Irina Leonardi, Postdoctoral Associate in Medicine, have revealed findings that show higher levels of a particular type of fungus in the gut are associated with better outcomes in patients with ulcerative colitis who have received FMT.
FMT, a procedure in which stool (containing healthy bacteria, fungi and other microbes) is transferred from a donor to the patient, has been shown in some studies to promote healing in the mucosal lining of the lower digestive tract, thus relieving ulcerative colitis symptoms in some people. Drs. Iliev and Leonardi analyzed patient stool samples in a large multicenter study and found that patients who benefitted from receiving FMT had higher levels of the fungus Candida in their gut prior to the procedure. In those patients who benefitted from FMT, fungus levels had been lowered.
On the heels of this breakthrough finding, Dr. Iliev and Dr. Leonardi look forward to further laboratory studies to illuminate the biological process behind their findings. They also hope to better understand the genetic and immune makeup of ulcerative colitis patients who might respond to fecal transplant. Ultimately, their advances will enable physicians to better target the patients who could benefit from FMT.
Dr. Iliev, who serves as the co-Director of the Microbiome Core Lab at the Jill Roberts Institute for Research in Inflammatory Bowel Disease, was senior study author on the paper, and Dr. Leonardi was first author.