by Kristin Crothers
The classic example of a disease that originates in the gut microbiome is infection by C. difficile, a bacteria that causes diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever, and in severe cases, kidney failure. It often develops in people who have taken heavy-duty antibiotics that killed off the normal bacteria in their digestive tract, says Purna Kashyap, MBBS, a gastroenterologist who is co-director of the Microbiome Program at the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Individualized Medicine. “If you disrupt the microbiome [the bacterial environment in the digestive tract] by giving it an insult like antibiotics or hospitalization, the bacteria start getting scattered and you lose some of them,” he says. When you lose that bacterial diversity, you have a weak spot that other bacteria can take advantage of, he points out. “That’s exactly what these opportunistic pathogens like C. difficile do.”
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Context: Purna Kashyap, M.B.B.S., is a Mayo Clinic hepatologist and gastroenterologist. Dr. Kashyap studies the complex interactions between gut bacteria and dietary carbohydrates and their influence on host physiological function, such as gastrointestinal motility. You can lear more about Mayo Clinic's Microbiome Program here.