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Trading chemistry for ecology with poo transplants

By Dyani Lewis

As simple as the procedure sounds, we don’t yet fully understand how faecal transplants work.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Antibiotics joined our growing arsenal of weapons in the fight against disease over seventy years ago. Their target – the bacterial infections that putrefied our wounds, filled our lungs with pneumonia, and made our genitals less than appealing to our lovers. Bacteria were worthy opponents, and with antibiotics, the war against infection seemed ours to win.

But gradually, two facts have become abundantly evident. The first is that not all bacteria are foe. There are billions of bacteria – many of them essential to our health – that call us home. We’re each colonised by trillions of microbes forming communities that occupy every imaginable niche in our body.

These microbial commensals – known collectively as our microbiome – have evolved with us over millennia, and a co-dependent relationship has resulted.

While we provide a cosy niche and abundant supply of food to the microbes living in our intestine or on our skin, they in turn help to release nutrients from otherwise indigestible dietary fibre, synthesise essential vitamins, or produce a moisturising film to keep our skin soft and supple.

The second fact is that antibiotics may be thwarting our best efforts to stave off infection by messing with the delicate ecosystems that our microbial companions form. By indiscriminately annihilating microbes with antibiotics, we are taking a carpet-bombing...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Dyani Lewis is a sexual health researcher at the University of Melbourne. This article was originally published at The Conversation.