New treatment reduces harmful overgrowth of bacteria in IBD

More than 1.6 million Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel disease. A new strategy for treating the disease is being pursued by microbiologists at UT Southwestern Medical Center who have uncovered a novel way to control the harmful overgrowth of gut bacteria.

Read Precision editing of gut bacteria: Potential way to treat colitis.

{Video opens with an animation of the human body that dissolves into microscopic imaging of eubacteria which is all bacteria in the gut. Dr. Sebastian Winter who is heard speaking then appears on-camera. He’s an associate professor of microbiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.} 

Sebastian Winter, Ph.D.: The human body is inhabited by a number of different microbes. I’m talking about, in particular, the G.I. tract. The gastrointestinal tract where there are trillions of microbes that are living there and they provide beneficial functions for the host, but they can also be associated with disease processes. For example, colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease.

{Scientific images of various bacteria that were captured by the National Institutes of Health are shown as Dr. Winter continues talking.}

The E. Coli bacteria that we find are enriched in IBD patients, when they are present in small numbers in healthy patients, they fulfill a very important for us because they protect us against infection with enteric pathogens like salmonella.  We don’t necessarily want to remove these bacteria.  We only want to be able to control their blooms.

{Video of bacteria blooming is seen.}

That’s the problem with IBD patients. We want to be able to control this expansion in the disease, and that is I think very different from an antibiotic treatment where we try to eradicate the bacteria in its entirety.

{Additional images of E. Coli from the National Institutes of Health appear.}

We studied the metabolism of E. Coli in this disease and by identifying the metabolic pathways like how these bacteria acquire their nutrients specifically in the disease process, we thought we had an angle [on] how we could prevent them from doing so.

{Several microscopic images of gut bacteria filter through as Dr. Winter elaborates on his scientific research.}

This was not just a microbial phenomenon. We actually had [a] positive outcome on the host so the animals that were treated with our drug that targeted the bacteria, their gut inflammation was partially resolved.

By targeting the metabolism of the bacteria, we had a way of actually ameliorating this relationship in the diseased animals.

We can now culture these bacteria in the laboratory and we can now find new drugs that have a very similar activity on the bacteria, but don’t have the negative effects on the host and this is something that we want to do going forward.

{Video ends with footage of Dr. Winter and his team doing research in the laboratory before fading to black.}