Peter Moses, M.D., UVM Professor of Medicine and UVM Medical Center gastroenterologist. (Photo: UVM COM Design & Photography)
The following commentary, provided by Peter Moses, M.D., University of Vermont professor of medicine and a gastroenterologist at UVM Medical Center, was originally featured on the University of Vermont Medical Center Blog. Moses’ colleague Mario Velez, M.D., recently participated in a WCAX-TV interview regarding UVM’s new clinical trial for patients with ulcerative colitis.
Today, 1.6 million Americans suffer with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis (UC) – collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD is a chronic, relapsing, debilitating disease associated with both environmental and genetic factors. It affects one in 200 Americans (80,000 children) at an estimated direct cost of $1.84 billion dollars.
Researchers at the University of Vermont College of Medicine are conducting a study to evaluate whether fecal microbiota transplant alters and improves clinical symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis.
Why this clinical trial now?
Even with the expanding choices of medications for UC, patients and physicians are clamoring for an effective treatment with minimal side effects. There are even dedicated websites for do-it-yourself fecal transplants.
Currently, conventional therapy attempts to control the immune response in the gut as it relates to IBD, yet many individuals continue to require surgery to control their disease or address its complications. There is a longstanding belief that microbial imbalance or alteration in the gut plays an important role in understanding what causes the development of IBD. Our clinical trial will examine a new approach to the treatment of IBD by altering the gut microbiome itself.
What is a Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT)?
The Western emergence of FMT is relatively new, yet it has been a treatment in traditional Chinese medicine since as early as the fourth century. It refers to “transplanting” fecal material containing normal microbes from a healthy individual into the gastrointestinal tract of another individual – in this case, someone with UC. Dysbiosis (altered gut bacteria) has been implicated in the disease process in individuals with UC. FMT can alter the bacterial composition of the human gut. This can result a durable microbiome alteration in the recipient that reflects the composition of the healthy donor.
What is the goal of this new clinical trial?
Our purpose is to evaluate the effectiveness of FMT for treating patients with mild to moderate Ulcerative Colitis (UC). We hypothesize that by delivering microbes from a healthy human gut, we can help treat the damage caused by UC. Additionally, we will assess whether an oral capsule containing fecal bacteria works as a maintenance therapy. For this, we are partnering with OpenBiome, a non-profit organization based in Massachusetts, to develop a unique, safe and user-friendly capsule to potentially change the treatment paradigm for IBD.
Learn more about participating in this study.