Research

Gut Microbiota for Health Expert Panel

Professor Ailsa Hart

The Gut Microbiota for Health Expert Panel represents a group of multi-disciplinary members (gastroenterologists, nurses, dieticians and scientists) with expertise and interest in the gut microbiota and its role in health and disease. The Group is under the auspices of the British Society of Gastroenterology Research Committee.

The group was formed in 2013 and has now grown to over 40 members who meet twice a year, arrange meetings and workshops on key topics related to the microbiota and publish articles in high impact journals, as well as writing articles to enhance understanding with the public. As the Group has grown, it is now dividing into themed groups, but maintains the over-arching meetings to ensure continuity and sharing of expertise and interest.

The goals of the group are: to increase awareness and understanding among clinicians of the gut microbiota and its impact on health; be a 'go-to' address for clinicians (GPs, gastroenterologists, nurses and allied health professionals) for defining what is currently reliably known in this field; and drive scientific and academic interest in the gut microbiota in gastrointestinal and liver disease.

In particular, the group aims to:

  • To map the science and reach consensus on what is known and what is not yet known
  • To draft consensus statements on areas of interest for UK GPs
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and research foci
  • To identify research and development areas in this field that would advance understanding and lead to patient benefit

The group has been successful in achieving several publications for the clinical and scientific audience, as well as the public. The group published a major scientific review in GUT, "The gut microbiota and host health: A new clinical frontier" (Marchesi et al. GUT 2016; 65:330-339), which is in the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric. In this article, the group outlines: the current understanding of the gut microbiota; dietary modulation of the microbiota; assesses the role of probiotics, prebiotics and polyphenols; and describes obesity-related diseases, liver disease, inflammatory bowel diseases and colorectal cancer and the microbiota.

The article "The ecologist will see you now" outlines for the public some of the fascinating facts about the microbiota "we're not individuals, we're ecosystems full of bacteria and understanding how these microbes interact with our bodies is set to transform medicine".

The Group has contributed to two successful BSG Research Workshops: "The Microbiome, Dysbiosis and GI Disease" 11 April 2014 and "Faecal Microbiota Transplantation: Bench, Bedside, Courtroom?" 11 September 2015.

The Group is now focussing on a review for primary care professionals, explaining the current understanding of the gut microbiota's impact on gut disorders and is aiming to disseminate information about the group to ensure it represents a broad and relevant range of expertise. It is also aiming to make a significant contribution to the governance of faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) in the UK by setting up a registry of groups conducting FMT in the UK.

It has been a privilege and a pleasure chairing this Group over the last three years.