This ecology experiment is one of many that have demonstrated how ecosystems with many
species tend to be more resilient than those with few species. We’re biased towards this
特别的草场实验 是因为实验者是我们的作者之一 然而数量的重要性
particular grassland experiment because it’s run by one of our writers, but strength in
物种数量的 同样也是生态系统健康的关键 无论是从
numbers – species numbers! – is also key to the health of ecosystems ranging from potato
fields to rivers to the inside of your gut.
In contrast, when a single species is dominant, it can cause problems. Take the case of Clostridium
difficile, a natural part of your gut community that causes a severe inflammation of the colon
严重的肠胃炎症 这种细菌通常被称为“C diff”
when it becomes too abundant. This bacteria, often referred to as “C diff”, was named difficile
because it was difficult to grow in a lab – not because it’s difficult to treat. But
C diff感染会较易发展 因为这种细菌比其它
it is. C. diff infections often develop because these bacteria persist better and regenerate
faster than other gut bacteria following an antibiotic treatment for some unrelated health
讽刺的是 我们用来治疗C diff的标准方法仍然是抗生素
problem. Ironically, the standard treatment for C diff is yet more antibiotics – which
这有时确实有效 但在许多情况下 C diff对抗生素的抗药性来自于在它的领地
sometimes works, but in many cases the antibiotic resistance of C diff means the playing field
其竞争者可以轻松清理 从而让C diff变得更猖獗
is simply cleared of its competitors and its population can grow even more vigorously.
So vigorously, in fact, that of the roughly 500,000 people infected each year in the US,
more than 15,000 die as a result, even after further drug treatments or surgery to remove
parts of the colon.
Out of desperation came the idea to entirely replenish the gut microbiome – not with probiotics,
which only supply something like 1 living organism for every 10,000 bacterial cells
already in your gut and just aren’t powerful enough to make a difference – but rather,
with something more like the microbial equivalent of a blood transfusion. And just like a blood
transfusion, don’t try this at home.
In a "fecal microbiota transplantation," or "poop transplant," someone with a healthy,
diverse community of gut bacteria donates a sample to be ‘administered’ to a patient
with a C diff infection. And in 411 of 473 documented cases, the transplanted bacterial
community quickly became dominant, causing the patient’s digestive system to recover
and stabilize (though scientists still don’t know exactly how that happens).
The human gut isn’t the only ecosystem where this germ of an idea is taking hold, either.
For example, transplanting soil and plants from healthy fields to unhealthy ones helps
knock back crop diseases and make soils more fertile; and transplanting water, snails & duckweed
from the pond to the aquarium helps maintain a well-balanced fishtank.
At the moment, microbial transplant therapy for disease control resides at the fringes
of medicine, agriculture, and home fishtank husbandry. For medicine, this may in part
be due to people being squeamish about their own and other’s fecal matter, and insurance
companies being squeamish about covering the cost of the procedure.
But money also plays a broader role: new practices – even really good ones – have difficulty
spreading without active promotion. And that promotion often comes from places like the
pharmaceutical, agrochemical, and home aquarium industries – industries which promote only
those things from which they can make a profit, like drugs, fertilizers, aquarium supplements,
and other heavily engineered chemical cocktails. But who will promote the simple solutions?
We will! From your C. diff to recoup, choose someone else’s poop!