gut bacteria

World IBD Day: What role does gut bacteria play?

19 May is World IBD Day – a time when Irritable Bowel Disease comes into focus to raise awareness of Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease and also raise funds for important research. 

Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) is incurable and has two predominant subtypes – Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Crohn’s Disease. Australia has one of the highest rates of IBD in the world, with 1 in 250 Australians being diagnosed with IBD and 14 new cases being diagnosed each day. 

Both forms of IBD are associated with many other health issues. The main goal of existing therapeutics is to control inflammation and prevent progression of damage to the gut thereby reducing the need for surgery and the ameliorating its impact on individuals and the public health system. Consequently, there is a real need for improved therapeutics that will extend the periods of disease-free remission and improve the quality of life for IBD patients. 

Biotech companies such as Brisbane-based Microba are working on research programs to develop diagnostics and therapeutics from the gut microbiome (community of bacteria in the gut). Microba launched its flagship IBD research program in 2019 with the aim of mining the gut microbiome for novel biotherapeutics. 

Microba’s proprietary DNA sequencing platform affords the team – headed up by Dr Páraic Ó Cuív and Associate Professor Lutz Krause – the opportunity to contribute to diagnostics and therapeutics for IBD sufferers. The team based in Brisbane’s Translational Research Institute (TRI) in Australia, uses Microba’s rapidly growing genomic database and a big-data approach to identify candidate microbial therapeutics from the microbiome. Notably, applying artificial intelligence-based approaches to the genomic database has allowed the data to be rationally mined for candidate therapeutics. Using these approaches, they have so far identified 20 bacterial species found in healthy individuals but rarely detected in Crohn’s Disease and/or Ulcerative Colitis.

To date, the team have demonstrated these species can suppress key inflammatory pathways that underly the IBD inflammatory response. They are now working hard in the lab to develop these bacteria into novel therapeutics under the premise that the reintroduction of these bacteria into IBD patients will alleviate active disease, increase disease-free remission periods and prevent progression of disease to more severe states.

The ultimate goal of the program is to improve the quality of life and health outcomes of IBD patients. This would be done through the development of effective and well-tolerated gut microbiome-derived therapeutics and the development of precision medicine tools to personalise patient care. 

“The outcome we aim for is that therapeutics developed by this research will assist IBD patients to maintain disease-free remission over long periods with little toxicity or side effects,” Dr. Páraic Ó Cuív, Microba Lead, Live Biotherapeutics. 

You can read more about Microba’s IBD program here.

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