Ulcerative Colitis (UC) is a very common condition, with 200,000 cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year. You certainly know someone who has it. You may even have it yourself. It is a long-term ailment of inflammation in the large intestine, often with intermittent "flares" of severe abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and bleeding. The cause is unknown, but it is believed that something triggers the body's immune system to be unnecessarily and inappropriately "revved up," causing illness.
Treatments for UC have typically centered around efforts to inhibit this immune activity. Because patients suffering with UC have been found to have significant alterations in their gut microbiomes, scientists and doctors have wondered if, as in C. diff, efforts to change the microbiome might have a role in therapy. Studies thus far, however have been rather mixed and inconclusive.
However, a small, blinded Australian study published last week in JAMA offers more hope. 32% of participants receiving donor fecal transplant went into remission (results very similar to the usual medications used to treat UC), as opposed to only 9% of those transplanted with their own stool. The primary difference in this study design vs. prior ones was the fact that oxygen was excluded from the preparation of the transplanted stool because it is believed that a significant portion of the "helpful" bacteria might be anaerobic, that is, they might die in the presence of oxygen.
While more research is certainly needed, this would seem to be a very promising result!