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Mucosal bacteria in ulcerative colitis

  • S. Macfarlane (a1), E. Furrie (a1), A. Kennedy (a1), J. H. Cummings (a2) and G. T. Macfarlane (a1)...

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is an acute and chronic inflammatory bowel disease of unknown aetiology, although bacterial species belonging to the normal colonic microbiota are known to be involved in its initiation and maintenance. Several organisms have been linked to the disease; however, mucosa-associated bacteria are more likely to be involved than their luminal counterparts, due to their close proximity to the host epithelium. Comparative bacteriological analyses were done on rectal biopsies to investigate differences in mucosal bacteria in patients with UC and healthy controls. Complex bacterial communities were found in both groups, with significant reductions in bifidobacterial numbers in UC, which suggested that they might have a protective role in the disease. Accordingly, a therapy for treating UC was designed, with the aim of modifying the mucosal microbiota to increase bifidobacterial colonisation and reduce inflammation. Ranges of mucosal and faecal bifidobacteria were tested for their substrate preferences and their abilities to survive under a variety of environmental conditions. A synbiotic comprising a probiotic (Bifidobacterium longum) isolated from healthy rectal mucosa combined with a prebiotic (oligofructose-enriched inulin – Synergy 1TM) was developed. The treatment was used in a randomised controlled trial involving eighteen patients with active UC, for a period of 1 month. Rectal biopsies were collected at the beginning and end of the study. Bacteriological analysis and transcription levels of epithelium-related immune markers were assessed. Results demonstrated that short-term synbiotic treatment resulted in increased bifidobacterial colonisation of the rectal mucosa and induced significant reductions in the expression of molecules that control inflammation in active UC.

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*Corresponding author: Dr S. Macfarlane, fax +44 1382 633952, email
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