The gut microbiome is a very large collection of mutualistic relationships between microorganisms and an animal. In our case, these microorganisms control very much of the digestive tract and have influences throughout the body. Crohn’s disease is something that can happen due to imbalance in this microbiome or “dysbiosis“. Usually marked by inflammation in the digestive tract, this disease is a result of an autoimmune response against possibly microbial antigens. Although there is no cure, scientists have determined the best course of action is to relieve the symptoms. This results in disruptions to the gut microbiome.
Scientists studying responses in the gut microbiome have found that treatment for Crohn’s disease have caused various responses in the people in the experiment. Antibiotics have been found to decrease bacterial growth in the tract while allowing fungus to grow more freely. Formula diets relieved inflammation and other symptoms but didn’t repair bacterial balance in the microbiome. Immunosuppressants decreased inflammation and bacterial dysbiosis at the expense of increasing fungal dysbiosis. All these methods don’t seem to work out.
But what if the microbiome does not need to be restored to remain healthy? Formula diets caused more dysbiosis but were able to alleviate symptoms. Suddenly, the microbiome does not seem to be as necessary as previous studies suggest. However, this experiment only measures a few variables. Results beneficial to treatments for Crohn’s disease may cause something bad to happen elsewhere in the microbiome. Replacing the gut microbiome would definitely have massive side effects.
Perhaps one day, we could find some way to substitute parts of our mutualistic relationship with the bacteria inhabiting our gut. However, that day seems far off. For now, we should probably stick with what we have.