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article imageFecal transplant donor population 'stalls'

By Tim Sandle     May 29, 2015 in Science
The rise of fecal transplants, as therapy to treat conditions like recurring bacterial infections caused by Clostridium difficile, have slowed down due to fewer people being suitable donors than medics had predicted.
Fecal transplants, as Digital Journal has reported, involve the transfer of beneficial bacteria to people with anatomical concerns or infections (such as MRSA) or Clostridium difficile. The more "accurate" term for the process is "fecal bacteriotherapy." A common procedure, it consists of either single to multiple infusions (such as by enema) of bacterial fecal flora originating from a healthy donor; or via the more palatable means of a pill.
Such is the potential success of the therapy that a study reported to the New England Journal of Medicine found 81 percent of patients, with C.difficile infections and who underwent transplantation, made a full recovery from their illness. The paper is headed "Duodenal Infusion of Donor Feces for Recurrent Clostridium difficile."
Such successes have led organizations like OpenBiome to seek fecal samples from appropriate donors in order to build up a supply of suitable fecal material for use in therapy.
However, other investigators, according to Newsweek, think more evidence is needed and the results obtained are too inconsistent for the therapy to be standardized.
However this plays out, OpenBiome told the website Medscape that the biggest issue is actually a shortage of suitable donors. In one campaign, less than 10 percent of people coming forward met the appropriate criteria. Laura Burns, from OpenBiome, told the site: "It's clear that it's very difficult to become a stool donor. It's actually more difficult than getting into Harvard."
In related news, researchers from University of Minnesota think that fecal transplants could cure diabetes in some people. The university is set to invest $500,000 in a two-year test to see whether stool transplants can, excuse the pun, "forestall diabetes."
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