Re-Evaluating the Evidence for Faecal Microbiota Transplantation 'Super-Donors' in Inflammatory Bowel Disease

J Crohns Colitis. 2021 Mar 5;15(3):453-461. doi: 10.1093/ecco-jcc/jjaa170.


Background: Faecal microbiota transplantation [FMT] is a recommended treatment for recurrent Clostridioides difficile infection, and there is promise that FMT may be effective for conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease [IBD]. Previous FMT clinical trials have considered the possibility of a 'donor effect', that is, that FMT material from different donors has different clinical efficacies.

Methods: Here we re-evaluate evidence for donor effects in published FMT clinical trials for IBD.

Results: In ten of 12 published studies, no statistically significant donor effect was detected when rigorously re-evaluating the original analyses. One study showed statistically significant separation of microbiota composition of pools of donor stool when stratified by patient outcome. One study reported a significant effect but did not have underlying data available for re-evaluation. When quantifying the uncertainty on the magnitude of the donor effect, confidence intervals were large, including both zero donor effects and very substantial donor effects.

Conclusion: Although we found very little evidence for donor effects, the existing data cannot rule out the possibility that donor effects are clinically important. Large clinical trials prospectively designed to detect donor effects are probably needed to determine if donor effects are clinically relevant for IBD.

Keywords: Faecal microbiota transplantation; donor effect; inflammatory bowel disease; super donor.

MeSH terms

  • Clostridium Infections / therapy
  • Fecal Microbiota Transplantation*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / therapy*
  • Tissue Donors*