Inflammatory bowel disease, which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, is a chronic, relapsing and remitting set of conditions characterized by an excessive inflammatory response leading to the destruction of the gastrointestinal tract. While the exact etiology of inflammatory bowel disease remains unclear, increasing evidence suggests that the human gastrointestinal microbiome plays a critical role in disease pathogenesis. Manipulation of the gut microbiome has therefore emerged as an attractive alternative for both prophylactic and therapeutic intervention against inflammation. Despite its growing popularity among patients, review of the current literature suggests that the adult microbiome is a highly stable structure resilient to short-term interventions. In fact, most evidence to date demonstrates that therapeutic agents targeting the microflora trigger rapid changes in the microbiome, which then reverts to its pre-treatment state once the therapy is completed. Based on these findings, our ability to treat inflammatory bowel disease through short-term manipulations of the human microbiome may only have a transient effect. Thus, this review is intended to highlight the use of various therapeutic options, including diet, pre- and probiotics, antibiotics and fecal microbiota transplant, to manipulate the microbiome, with specific attention to the alterations made to the microflora along with the duration of impact.
Internal Medicine Residency Program, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, NY, USA.,