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K-State Today

May 8, 2019

Researcher publishes on promising disease treatment and prevention in animals

Submitted by Joe Montgomery

A medical procedure dating as far back as fourth-century China is offering new promise as a tool for treating and preventing diseases in animals and humans. It's called fecal microbiota transplantation, or FMT.

Megan Niederwerder, assistant professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine, has recently published an article summarizing the current state of research and treatment in the use of FMT. FMT is the process by which fecal microbiota are donated from a healthy individual and subsequently transplanted into a diseased or young individual.

"Fecal microbiota transplantation is a fairly new concept in most veterinary species, with the majority of peer-reviewed literature examples having publication dates within the last five years," Niederwerder said. "The mechanism by which FMT is effective is believed to be due to enhanced beneficial microbes, increased microbiome diversity, and modulation of immunity."

Niederwerder explained that in humans and animals, gastrointestinal diseases are by far the most widely accepted FMT-treatable conditions.

"Recent research has shown exceptional promise for FMT being used to treat or prevent other conditions, including those outside of the gastrointestinal tract," Niederwerder said. "Overall, FMT is likely an underutilized, widely available and inexpensive tool for improving the health and response to disease in animals."

Niederwerder said livestock animals have been on the receiving end of much recent FMT research, including her own work with swine.

"In animals, the most common historical use of FMT is referred to as transfaunation and is utilized in cattle to restore microbes to the ruminal contents, most commonly implemented for digestive or metabolic disorders," Niederwerder said. "More recently, FMT has also become a topic of interest in other livestock as well as domestic pets for therapeutic and prophylactic uses. For example, work in my laboratory has used FMT to successfully reduce the development of porcine circovirus associated disease in nursery pigs."

Niederwerder has also reviewed FMT use in companion animals and zoo animals, and even in species of fish.

"From delaying the effects of aging on African turquoise killifish to reducing hospitalization in dogs with parvovirus infections to preventing respiratory disease in pigs, FMT has far-reaching benefits in animals," Niederwerder said. "The recent surge of interest in the gut microbiome has broadened our understanding of how gut health impacts systemic health, and encourages us to think 'outside the gut' when considering conditions which may benefit from microbiome therapeutics such as FMT."

Niederwerder's article, "Fecal microbiota transplantation as a tool to treat and reduce susceptibility to disease in animals," is in the journal Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology.

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