A novel insight about the role of gut flora in the development of gastro-intestinal diseases has been unraveled by the research groups of Prof. Jeroen Raes (expert in metagenomics of the gut flora, VIB/KU Leuven) and prof. Severine Vermeire (expert in gastroenterology, KU Leuven/UZ Leuven). Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is a liver disease with no effective medical treatment.
Thus far liver transplantation is the only proven long-term treatment of PSC. A vast majority of patients with PSC also have inflammatory bowel disease which hinted a role of intestine in the origin of this PSC. When Prof. Jeroen Raes, using massive DNA sequencing, compared the gut bacteria in patients with PSC and in healthy people he could develop a signature to diagnose PSC based on gut bacteria. The first results of this collaborative research are published in the leading scientific journal Gut.
The results are required to be confirmed before they can be used in clinical practice. The findings may serve as the grassroot factor for the development of microbiota-based therapies, such as fecal microbiota transplantation or targeted pre- and probiotics. Both teams are planning to further investigate the complex interactions between the immune system and the intestinal microbiota in PSC patients.