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Getting that Bacteria Back

Fecal microbiome transplants help restore beneficial bacteria to the guts of cancer patients who had to take intense antibiotics before a stem cell transplant, a new study has found.

Researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and elsewhere conducted a clinical trial in which 25 patients undergoing allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation were randomized to also undergo autologous fecal microbiota transplantation or no intervention, as they report in Science Translational Medicine.

The researchers collected longitudinal fecal samples from the 25 patients and measured their microbial diversity by 16SrRNA sequencing. They found that microbial diversity started high but dropped to its low about five days after the patients began their antibiotic treatment, where it stayed for about six weeks. Patients who then received the FMT intervention reestablished their microbiome, including the commensal Lachnospiraceae, Ruminococcaceae, and Bacteroidetes microbes, within days, while it was delayed in control patients.

In a statement, Anthony Fauci, the director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which funded the study, says this indicates that "auto-FMT can safely reverse the disruptive effects of broad-spectrum antibiotic treatment" and could be, if validated, a "way to quickly restore a person's healthy microbiome following intensive antimicrobial therapy."