The Bacteria in Our Large Intestine

When we think of bacteria in the body we often associate it with sickness or disease. But not all bacteria are unhealthy. In fact, a healthy immune system depends on a plentiful supply of beneficial bacteria. We all have an entire ecosystem of beneficial bacteria living inside our digestive tract that is constantly working to keep us healthy.
This ecosystem of bacteria is commonly referred to as the microbiome (or literally a thriving community of microbes). Your microbiome consists of approximately 40 trillion microbial cells, most of which are found in your large intestine (colon).

Facts about the human microbiome.

The purpose of the microbiome

Researchers have only recently discovered the important role the microbiome plays in overall health. An average person has as many as 1,000 species of microorganisms in their intestines. The beneficial microbes in your gut keep you healthy by absorbing nutrients and extracting vitamins from the food you eat, regulating your blood glucose and metabolism and fighting disease-causing microbes.

The consequences of microbial imbalance

But, this diversity of beneficial bacteria can become imbalanced and cause problems. When there is a shortage of beneficial bacteria in the gut (called dysbiosis) it creates an environment where unhealthy or disease-causing microbes can significantly increase and weaken the immune system.

C. difficile

One of the most common reasons for bacteria imbalance comes from a bacterium called Clostridium difficile (also known as C. difficile or C. diff). Although C. difficile is naturally found in most people, it is usually held in check by other healthy bacteria in the gut. But, if the microbiome balance is disrupted, C. difficile can rapidly grow, releasing toxins that attack the lining of the intestines making them inflamed. This inflammation can range from mild symptoms (watery diarrhea and mild abdominal cramping) to a severe infection that could be life threatening if not treated.
The eruption of C. difficile in the gut is most commonly linked to antibiotic use. Antibiotics help destroy harmful bacteria, such as those associated with an ear infection or strep throat. But, certain antibiotics can also destroy healthy bacteria and this potentially opens the door for C. difficile to quickly grow out of control.

Restoring the microbial balance

The treatment goal for a person whose microbiome is out of balance, especially if the source is C. difficile, is to restore a plentiful amount of beneficial bacteria. New insights into the human microbiome are shaping our current understanding of how to best treat diseases that arise from dysbiosis (shortage of beneficial bacteria in the gut).

Seres Therapeutics is a biopharmaceutical company that has designed an innovative clinical platform to understand the complex causes of dysbiosis associated with a number of conditions that involve inflammation, metabolic, and infectious diseases. Through a deep understanding of the specific microbes that are responsible for both a healthy and a compromised microbiome they are creating a new class of therapies, called Ecobiotic® therapeutics, aimed at establishing a healthy microbiome. Ecobiotic therapeutics are designed to target specific microbiome deficiencies, such as C. difficile, to re-establish the optimal microbial balance.

This study involves research about recurrent Clostridium difficile infection and SER-109 (an investigational medicine). SER-109 is a preparation of bacterial spores highly purified from stool donations obtained from healthy, screened donors and put into capsules. These bacterial spores are inactive forms of the normal bacteria that live in a healthy intestine. SER-109 is a new investigational research medication being studied to determine if providing normal healthy bacteria (via SER-109) to patients with recurrent Clostridium difficile infection can help replenish natural organisms in the intestines to help prevent recurrent Clostridium difficile infection.

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