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Scientists target genetically modified probiotics to cure gut conditions

Professor Simon Carding, University of East Anglia, today looks to a future of genetically modified probiotic bacteria, claiming sufferers will be able to use a food additive to control the release of human growth factors by the modified bacteria to fight against injury and inflammation in the gut.

Speaking at the British Society of Gastroenterology's Annual Meeting in Birmingham, Professor Carding presents his recent research, claiming the use of a plant sugar called xylan with to stimulate the genetically modified human gut probiotic bacterium Bacteroides ovatus to produce specific proteins that can repair damaged cells and dampen down the immune system in the intestine that causes inflammation and disease.

The discovery limits the development of inflammation and disruption of the gut lining and allows the patient to control the timing and size of the dose and so could have a profound effect on patients suffering with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

The tests showed continuous administration of xylan with the genetically engineered probiotic bacteria resulted in a significant improvement of colitis; reducing weight loss, improving stool consistency, reducing rectal bleeding and accelerating healing of damaged colonic cells.

Professor Carding says:

"The human gut has a huge number of bacteria and this research looks at the potential to adapt what is naturally there to treat gut diseases. Our research clearly shows the impact genetically modified bacteria can have on IBD but we also believe we could modify the bacterium to treat other intestinal diseases and produce factors that could limit tumour growth in the colon. The potential for this type of application is huge."

Professor Jon Rhodes, President of the British Society of Gastroenterology says:

"The whole field of probiotics is moving on rapidly with application of modern molecular techniques. It reasonable to hope that intestinal disorders such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis may prove susceptible to treatment with probiotic approaches that could include use of bacteria to convey anti-inflammatory messages, as highlighted by Professor Carding's research. "

The research has recently gone through an animal testing phase and Professor Carding hopes to start testing with patients within two years.

IBD affects approximately 1 in every 250 of the UK population with symptoms including bloody diarrhoea, general tiredness and weight loss.


The British Society of Gastroenterology's Annual meeting will be taking place 14-17th March, International Convention Centre, Birmingham.

The British Society of Gastroenterology is an organisation focused on the promotion of high standards for clinical services, research, training and education in gastroenterology and hepatology within the UK. It has over three thousand members drawn from the ranks of physicians, surgeons, pathologists, radiologists, scientists, nurses, dietitians, and others interested in the field. Founded in 1937 it has grown from a club to be a major force in British medicine.

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