The liver plays a very role in our bodies. As the second-largest organ, it provides vital functions including fighting infections and illness, removing toxins, controlling cholesterol levels, helping blood to thicken, and releasing bile – a liquid that breaks down fats and aids digestion.
So, when the liver is damaged, it can be a big problem for your entire body.
Recent figures reveal that the number of admissions to hospitals of liver disease rose by 22% in 2022 with 82,290 people being admitted with the condition that year compared to 67,458 the year before.
This is why the UK is about to start a clinical trial that aims to fight advanced liver disease with the help of a new tablet. Sounds great, right? Well, the only caveat is that it is made of faeces. Yes, they are poo pills. The tablets are made up of good bacteria from dried and powdered faeces from healthy volunteers.
The good news is that they don’t smell or taste of poo, apparently. The trial seeks to examine if the chances of liver disease patients developing infections will reduce when taking faecal microbiota transplants (FMT).
Additionally, scientists want the trial to validate the research that argues that FMT can boost gut health in the microbiome.
Cirrhosis which is the advanced stage of liver disease is not reversible. The NHS explains that cirrhosis is caused by long-term liver damage. It’s currently the third most common cause of death in the UK.
Those with cirrhosis are more susceptible to serious infections due to ‘bad’ bacteria in their bowels. It’s for this reason that the scientists hope that the bad bacteria can be swapped with the ‘good’ bacteria from the tablets.
“If we can boost liver patients’ own immunity to reduce infections by modifying the microbiome, we can reduce the need for the prescription of antibiotics,” Dr Lindsey Edwards, senior lecturer in inflammation biology at King’s College London said.
The trial involved 300 volunteers from across the UK and was led by King’s College London. Currently, the only option for those who suffer from cirrhosis is a liver transplant. So, this trial will help sufferers feel more optimistic about their future.
“Finding new, effective ways to treat resistant bacteria is one of the most important challenges in global medicine and this could provide a solution that could save healthcare systems across the world millions of pounds,” according to Pamela Healy, CEO of the British Liver Trust.