In an interesting case of role reversal, scientists at Keimyung University in South Korea are currently using a strain of E. coli bacteria—most often associated with diarrhea and stomach upset—to help people with chronic constipation.
Unlike occasional constipation, which affects millions of Americans every year, chronic constipation is less common. Though its cause is not always known, some believe chronic constipation may be the result of a bacterial imbalance in the intestinal tract.
For this new study, which began in April, researchers will examine the effects of administering E. coli Nissle—a type of friendly bacteria found naturally in the gut. More than 100 participants will receive either a pill containing the bacteria or a placebo.
Study authors predict the bacteria will help to accelerate digestion and increase the number and frequency of bowel movements. They also hope the treatment will help relieve constipation-related symptoms and improve overall quality of life for those suffering from chronic constipation.