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The Whys of Fecal Transplants Explored

Fecal transplants are being studied to treat more than recurrent Clostridium difficile infections these days, but Carl Zimmer writes at the New York Times that how these transplants have their effect on the recipient microbiome is unknown.

Recent studies have found the approach is effective for treating C. difficile infections, Zimmer says, and researchers are now investigating whether it's effective in treating diseases like ulcerative colitis, obesity, and diabetes. But just what's transferred during a fecal transplant appears to be a gemish of bacteria, archaea, viruses, and fungi, as a recent essay in PLOS Biology points out.

"There's a lot going on in there — it's a whole community," the University of Pennsylvania's Frederic Bushman tells Zimmer.

But, Zimmer adds, researchers at the Mayo Clinic have found that what bacteria are present appear to be particularly important. Though Vanderbilt University's Seth Bordenstein, one of the PLOS Biology essay authors, says not to count other microbes out just yet. He tells Zimmer that he looks forward to experiments that tease out the effects of the different components of poop.

And it just may be that a mix of components is needed. "It's possible there is no one answer," adds Harry Sokol, a gastroenterologist at Saint-Antoine Hospital AP-HP in Paris.

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