The origins of gut microbiome research in Europe: From Escherich to Nissle
Farré-Maduell E., Casals-Pascual C.
© 2019 Microbiome research is rapidly changing the way we understand medicine. However, unbeknownst to many, several critical milestones of microbiome research took place in the late 1800s in Europe. In this article, we review the most important contributions in the area of microbiome research by leading scientists in Europe. Following the initial observations of intestinal microorganisms, German paediatrician Theodor Escherich consolidated the study of the human gut flora. His work was continued by Henry Tissier in Paris, who administered probiotic bacteria in children and adults to improve gastrointestinal conditions. Immunologist Ilya Metchnikov popularised the consumption of fermented milk to delay the effects of aging. During WWI, medical microbiologist Alfred Nissle discovered and patented gelatine capsules of E. coli Nissle 1917 to antagonise the effects of harmful intestinal bacteria. The translational potential of this research faded in Western medicine to re-emerge recently in the new light of current microbiome research, with the arrival of rapid and affordable sequencing tools, the Human Microbiome Project and the remarkable efficacy of faecal microbiota transplant to treat some conditions, like Clostridium difficile infection.