Microbial ecosystems therapeutics: a new paradigm in medicine?
Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases / GI Diseases Research Unit, Queen’s University, Kingston General Hospital, 76 Stuart Street, Kingston, ON K7L 2V7, Canada.
Increasing evidence indicates that the complex microbial ecosystem of the human intestine plays a critical role in protecting the host against disease.
This review discusses gut dysbiosis (here defined as a state of imbalance in the gut microbial ecosystem, including overgrowth of some organisms and loss of others) as the foundation for several diseases, and the applicability of refined microbial ecosystem replacement therapies as a future treatment modality.
Consistent with the concept of a ‘core’ microbiome encompassing key functions required for normal intestinal homeostasis, ‘Microbial Ecosystem Therapeutics’ (MET) would entail replacing a dysfunctional, damaged ecosystem with a fully developed and healthy ecosystem of ‘native’ intestinal bacteria.
Its application in treating Clostridium difficile infection is discussed and possible applications to other diseases such as ulcerative colitis, obesity, necrotising enterocolitis, and regressive-type autism are reviewed. Unlike conventional probiotic therapies that are generally limited to a single strain or at most a few strains of bacteria ‘Microbial Ecosystem Therapeutics’ would utilise whole bacterial communities derived directly from the human gastrointestinal tract.
By taking into account the intrinsic needs of the entire microbial ecosystem, MET would emphasise the rational design of healthy, resilient and robust microbial communities that could be used to maintain or restore human health. More than simply a new probiotic treatment, this emerging paradigm in medicine may lead to novel strategies in treating and managing a wide variety of human diseases.