If you've ever experienced an intestinal infection from C.difficile that causes intractable diarrhea, you’ll appreciate a novel treatment discovered by researchers. It involves transplanting another person’s stool (poop) into the infected person.
The stool transplant restores balance to the intestines, which in turn cures the infection that is potentially deadly.
C. difficile can be contracted just from taking a course of strong antibiotics that can wipe out good bacteria in the intestines.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the infection causes 14,000 deaths in the U.S. each year and rates are at ‘historically high levels’. The infection can also be contracted in the hospital because it’s highly contagious and can be spread from contaminated equipment, surfaces and from the hands of health care providers.
It’s no surprise to most people that sometimes the cure can be worse than the treatment, but it’s a risk patients take when they have to take antimicrobial drugs.
Researchers at Henry Ford Hospital say donated poop from a family member that is administered down a tube that goes through the nose to the stomach (nasogastric tube) or given via an enema, is both safe and effective.
The finding is interesting. It’s also a quick, easy and inexpensive way to treat the bacteria that can lead to severe dehydration, especially in elders and patients whose immune system is already compromised.
Mayur Ramesh, M.D., a Henry Ford Infectious Diseases physician and senior author of the study said in a press release:
“More than 90 percent of the patients in our study were cured of their C.diff infection. This treatment is a viable option for patients who are not responding to conventional treatment and who want to avoid surgery.”
First-line drug treatments for the infection include either the drugs Flagyl or Vancomycin. According to the Mayo Clinic, severe cases can lead to surgery from bowel perforation or intestinal hemorrhage.
C. difficile can irritate the intestines so severely that sometimes part of the colon has to be removed.
In 30% of cases, the infection can return, even after antibiotic treatment. The goal of treatment is to restore healthy bacteria to the gut, which is what the poop treatment accomplishes.
The cure simply involves mixing a healthy person’s stool with warm tap water, which can be done without the need for hospitalization.
“Patients who receive treatment through a nasogastric tube don’t taste or smell the stool mixture as it’s administered,” Dr. Ramesh says. “Patients often resume their diet within a couple hours and are feeling better within 24 hours.”
The researchers treated 49 patients. Among those, 43 recovered completely. One patient had surgery, one had no response and four died of unrelated causes.