Professional article

First microbiome consultation in Switzerland at the USZ

Published on November 03, 2023

The USZ offers the only microbiome consultation in Switzerland. What are the consultation hours about and who is the new offer aimed at? We asked Prof. Michael Scharl. The specialist in gastrointestinal diseases conducts research on the microbiome and heads the new microbiome consultation at the USZ.

Mr. Scharl, the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the USZ offers the first microbiome consultation in Switzerland. Why was a consultation hour set up specifically for this purpose?

The microbiome has been a much-discussed topic for some time. There are countless reports in the literature and in the media about diseases related to the microbiome and the role of the microbiome in a wide variety of diseases. There are also increasing opportunities to target the microbiome in specific therapies. There is therefore a great need for advice around the microbiome.

Which patients does the consultation address?

Basically to all persons. For example, there are countless offers for microbiome stool testing that many have done. However, it is then not possible to classify the findings correctly and, if necessary, to derive a therapy from them. Here we offer structured consulting.

In the context of microbiome therapies, stool transplants are also repeatedly reported. Is this therapy also part of the consultation?

This therapy involves the transfer of processed stool from healthy individuals to patients. The procedure is used in patients with antibiotic-refractory Clostridioides difficile colitis, where it has been very successful. We also advise this group of patients in the microbiome consultation. In addition, we are conducting studies with this type of therapy, particularly in patients with immunotherapy-refractory malignancies.

How do patients and referring physicians benefit from the consultation?

So far, there is no special consultation hour on this topic in Switzerland, but there is a great need for advice. And at the USZ, we do intensive research on the microbiome and have experience with the latest therapies. So it was obvious to make this knowledge and treatment offer accessible in the form of a consultation hour. In the consultation we answer all questions on the subject according to the latest medical and scientific knowledge. If relevant diseases related to the microbiome are identified, the interdisciplinary approach at the USZ comes into play: in diagnostics, consultation and treatment, the necessary work closely together. For patients, this means faster clarification and access to the latest treatment approaches, e.g. in the context of studies.

What is a microbiome?

The intestinal microbiome refers to the totality of all microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract of a human being – in former times one spoke of the “intestinal flora”. The microbiome can influence the immune system, metabolism and hormonal system. Based on studies, it is assumed that there is a connection with the intestinal microbiome in numerous diseases, such as inflammatory bowel diseases, diabetes mellitus and cancer. And the microbiome is changeable. For some time now, medicine has been taking advantage of this fact by treating diseases by altering the intestinal microbiome.

Michael Scharl, Prof. Dr. med.

Senior Attending Physician, Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology

Tel. +41 44 255 85 48
Specialties: Immunotherapy-associated colitis, Colorectal carcinoma, Microbiome