A mixture of bacteria developed in part by University
of Alberta researchers has been proven highly effective
in treating people suffering from ulcerative colitis.
The findings, published in the July, 2005 issue of
American Journal of Gastroenterology showed that the
majority of patients taking a probiotic mixture of
8 bacteria (VSL#3) for 6 weeks improved their ulcerative
colitis. Probiotics are preparations of living microbial
cells that, when ingested, are thought to positively
influence the composition of microbes in the gut and
improve the health of the intestine.
While "bad" bacteria have been flagged as potential
culprits in the cause of inflammatory diseases of
the bowel, in this case, the ingestion of supplemental
"good" bacteria (probiotics) to the intestine proved
beneficial in treating ulcerative colitis, said Dr.
Richard Fedorak, a professor of gastroenterology at
the University of Alberta. The joint study included
researchers from the University of Bologna in Italy
and the University of North Carolina.
In this open label clinical trial, 86 per cent of
those treated with probiotic bacteria mixture VSL#3
experienced relief of their mild to moderate ulcerative
colitis. The mixture of eight lactic acid bacterial
species is believed to be effective by mechanisms
that include (1) reducing the number of "bad" bacteria,
(2) reducing the amount of inflammation (3) increasing
the mucus layer in the gut, and (4) increasing the
amount of anti-inflammatory molecules in the intestine.
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease
that affects the large intestine (colon) and causes
acute bloody diarrhea, sever stomach pain, urgency,
anemia and fatigue. In its most severe form, ulcerative
colitis that does not respond to medical treatment
will require surgical removal of the colon.
The VSL#3 was administered over a six-week period
to 30 patients who ranged in age from 18 to 65. Remission
of the colitis was achieved in 63 per cent of the
patients, while another 23 per cent responded with
improvement in their symptoms and with healing of
the colon's lining. There were no adverse effects
to the medication.
The VSL#3 can be considered an important potential
treatment for those patients who don't respond to
conventional therapy such as mesalamine or 5ASA, Dr.