Gut Check

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and the Gut Microbiome: An Interview with Professor Michael Kamm, Our Scientific Advisor

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It has become increasingly clear that the microbiome plays an important role in influencing human health conditions, not least gastro-intestinal conditions like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Ulcerative Colitis. We spoke with our AMILI advisor, Dr Michael Kamm, Professor of Gastroenterology at the University of Melbourne and Gastroenterologist at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne to understand the deep connection between the gut microbiome and IBD, as well as how the microbiome itself can be influenced by factors like diet and ethnicity.

AMILI:  Why has the gut microbiome become so topical in medicine? 

MK: The gut microbiome is the major new frontier in medicine. Excitement relates to its proven central role in maintaining health and wellbeing, in causing diseases of the gut and outside the gut, and because adjusting the microbiome is an effective way to treat a range of established diseases. 

AMILI: How important are diet and environmental factors in a person’s gut microbiome? And how different are gut microbiome profiles across countries and regions? 

MK: Diet and environmental factors have profound effects on a person’s microbiome. Diet has been shown to relate to a range of disease risks. Diet can also be used to change a person’s microbiome, improve risk factors for disease, and treat established conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). 

The gut microbiome varies across different nationalities and ethnicities. This relates to a range of factors including genetics, diet, and local environmental factors.   

AMILI: What is your hope for harnessing the gut microbiome for improvements in IBD treatment? 

MK: The gut microbiome is the driving force in Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and its modification holds great promise as a treatment approach that may replace immune-suppressing therapies in some patients. Faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is now of proven benefit in ulcerative colitis. Diet induced changes in the microbiome is of proven benefit in Crohn’s disease. Further work on identifying which changes in the microbiome improve each condition, and tailoring changes to individual patients will lead to even better treatments.  

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Khan, I., Ullah, N., Zha, L., Bai, Y., Khan, A., Zhao, T., Che, T., & Zhang, C. (2019). Alteration of Gut Microbiota in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Cause or Consequence? IBD Treatment Targeting the Gut Microbiome. Pathogens (Basel, Switzerland)8(3), 126. https://doi.org/10.3390/pathogens8030126

Michael A Kamm

MB BS MD FRCP FRACP

Professor of Gastroenterology, St Vincent’s Hospital and University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

Advisor to AMILI

Michael Kamm is Professor at the University of Melbourne and Gastroenterologist at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne. He was Chairman of Medicine and Director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Physiology Units at St Mark’s Hospital, the London specialist hospital for gut diseases, and Professor of Gastroenterology at Imperial College London, until 2008. He returned home to Melbourne in 2008.

His main focus is on luminal gastroenterology. His research spans from basic science to clinical application, with a special interest in inflammatory bowel diseases and functional gut and pelvic floor disorders.  

His work has been recognised in many national and international awards, most recently the Distinguished Research Award by the Gastroenterological Society of Australia, The Joseph Sung lectureship at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the David Sachar International Award from Mt Sinai Hospital in New York.

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