University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers have made the first direct demonstration that fecal donor microbes remained in recipients for months or years after a transplant to treat the diarrhea and colitis caused by recurrent Clostridium difficile infections — a serious and stubborn cause of diarrhea after an antibiotic treatment for some other illness.

While clinicians have hypothesized that fecal microbiota transplantation, or FMTs, are successful because they restore missing microbial flora to the gut of a fecal transplant recipient, no one has directly shown colonization of specific microbial donor strains in recipient patients or what those strains are.

In two patients, the UAB group showed that certain donor microbial strains persisted as long as two years after an FMT. Five other patients showed persistence of donor strains in recipients for three to six months, the longest times tested, after an FMT.

To detect the fates of donor microbial strains in recipients, Ranjit Kumar, Ph.D., Elliot Lefkowitz, Ph.D., Martin Rodriguez, M.D., Casey Morrow, Ph.D., and their UAB colleagues developed a method that uses detection of single nucleotide variations in microbial genomes — in combination with a new bioinformatics algorithm — to identify related microbes.

“It essentially is a personalized microbiome ‘fingerprint,’” said Kumar, research scientist in the UAB Center for Clinical and Translational Science Informatics Institute.

Read more at UAB