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article imageUnexpected weight gain from a fecal transplant

By Tim Sandle     Feb 8, 2015 in Science
Fecal transplants have received considerable coverage, they act as a means of transferring beneficial bacteria to people with anatomical concerns or infections (such as MRSA).) However, a new study has found an unusual side effect: obesity.
Fecal transplants (or fecal bacteriotherapy), as Digital Journal has previously reported, aim to restore the balance between good bacteria and bad bacteria in the colon. In the early days of the therapy, a high success rate was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine; in one trial, the therapy cured 15 out of 16 patients suffering from a recurrent diarrheal infection of the problem microbe Clostridium difficile. This bacterial group has stains that are antibiotic resistant.
Fecal transplants are sufficiently widespread to the extent that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared that fecal transplants meet the definition of a biologic therapy. This is all well and good, but does the therapy have unintended side effects?
According to a new medical case report, a woman who was successfully treated for a recurrent C. difficile infection with stool from an overweight donor rapidly gained weight herself. The weight gain occurred shortly afterwards, and was to the extent that the woman ended up becoming obese.
The case notes indicate that the had a weight of 136 pounds and a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 26 at the start of the treatment. The transplant used donor stool from the woman's overweight teenage daughter. Sixteen months later, the woman increased her weight to 170 pounds and her BMI rose to 33. The weight gain continued despite attempts by healthcare professionals to lower it. Now, three years after the fecal transplant, the woman weighs 177 pounds and has a BMI of 34.5, which is sufficient to classify her as obese.
Although there could be other factors at play, the report concludes that donor screening for fecal transplants should exclude those who are overweight.
The unusual case has been written up as an article published in the journal Open Forum Infectious Diseases. The article is called "Weight Gain After Fecal Microbiota Transplantation."
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