For real

In Featured Posts by Prof4 Comments

As noted at the end of Monday’s lecture, there is now a rather unconventional medical practice being used to treat antibiotic-resistant Clostridium difficile infections.  This organism, called “C. diff” in the popular press, causes a truly miserable disease.  Patients that have this organism in their gut can be chronically ill, with a terrible quality of life.  In severe cases, the infection can be so bad that removal of the colon is sometimes the only remedy.

A few years ago, a handful of medical researchers developed a novel idea – why not replace the gut microbiota of these C. difficile patients with gut contents from healthy donors.  When I say “gut contents” you should realize that I am referring to poop.  Guess what?  It works.  As a matter of fact, these so-called Fecal Microbiota Transplants (FMT) work great, with success rates of 90% or higher.

Scientists are now creating fecal banks – collections of gut bacteria from donors that can be stored away and used to treat patients without having to round up fresh material.  They are like blood banks.  There are even “do-it-yourself” kits and with websites that have detailed instructions.  So popular is this treatment, it’s been described in magazines and books.


 

Comments

  1. I think that this technique to alter someone’s microbiota is an incredible discovery and it is amazing how almost simple it is. I am curious to see, with more research what other techniques can be used and whether there are other functions fecal transplants can have.

  2. I had never heard of this before! I don’t know if I would like to do this, especially the do-it-yourself kits, but if I were suffering from C. diff I am sure I would have a different opinion. It is so interesting that it can help with C. diff infections!

  3. When you explained this in lecture I was extremely surprised, I couldn’t believe it to be true. The idea of replacing someone’s current microbiota with a healthier person itself sounds crazy, as well as the process. After hearing what C. Diff was I realized why people would go through extreme measures to find a radical cure for it. It’s incredible that it also works around 90% of the time, nearly curing an awful infection.

  4. I was talking to a friend about this technique the other day, and we were marveling at how much more simple and cheaper this solution is compared to having surgery and completely removing the colon to treat C. Diff. He also mentioned how fecal transplantation is used in horses as well, but I’m not sure how often that is used. I wonder if it was first done on humans or other animals.

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