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Engraftment of essential functions through multiple fecal microbiota transplants in chronic antibiotic-resistant pouchitis-a case study using metatranscriptomics.

Microbiome 2023 December 2
BACKGROUND: Ileal pouch-anal anastomosis (IPAA) is the standard of care after total proctocolectomy for ulcerative colitis (UC). Around 50% of patients will experience pouchitis, an idiopathic inflammatory condition. Antibiotics are the backbone of treatment of pouchitis; however, antibiotic-resistant pouchitis develops in 5-10% of those patients. It has been shown that fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is an effective treatment for UC, but results for FMT antibiotic-resistant pouchitis are inconsistent.

METHODS: To uncover which metabolic activities were transferred to the recipients during FMT and helped the remission, we performed a longitudinal case study of the gut metatranscriptomes from three patients and their donors. The patients were treated by two to three FMTs, and stool samples were analyzed for up to 140 days.

RESULTS: Reduced expression in pouchitis patients compared to healthy donors was observed for genes involved in biosynthesis of amino acids, cofactors, and B vitamins. An independent metatranscriptome dataset of UC patients showed a similar result. Other functions including biosynthesis of butyrate, metabolism of bile acids, and tryptophan were also much lower expressed in pouchitis. After FMT, these activities transiently increased, and the overall metatranscriptome profiles closely mirrored those of the respective donors with notable fluctuations during the subsequent weeks. The levels of the clinical marker fecal calprotectin were concordant with the metatranscriptome data. Faecalibacterium prausnitzii represented the most active species contributing to butyrate synthesis via the acetyl-CoA pathway. Remission occurred after the last FMT in all patients and was characterized by a microbiota activity profile distinct from donors in two of the patients.

CONCLUSIONS: Our study demonstrates the clear but short-lived activity engraftment of donor microbiota, particularly the butyrate biosynthesis after each FMT. The data suggest that FMT triggers shifts in the activity of patient microbiota towards health which need to be repeated to reach critical thresholds. As a case study, these insights warrant cautious interpretation, and validation in larger cohorts is necessary for generalized applications. In the long run, probiotics with high taxonomic diversity consisting of well characterized strains could replace FMT to avoid the costly screening of donors and the risk of transferring unwanted genetic material. Video Abstract.

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