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Monday, October 22, 2012

Poop Transplants to the Rescue!

One of the worst types of infections someone can experience is C. diff, which is short for the bacteria, Clostridium difficile. It is known for causing signs and symptoms such as significant diarrhea with a distinctly foul odor, fever, and abdominal pain. It kills about 14,000 people a year.

Most cases are caused with the use of antibiotics in older people because the antibiotics kill off normal bacteria in the intestine, allowing C. diff to grow.   

C. diff bacteria can live outside of the body for long periods, which means that patients can ingest them accidentally and easily become infected, particularly if they are in a medically vulnerable state in a medical facility. There are various medications (e.g., antibiotics) that are used to treat C. diff, but they are not always effective (recurrence rate of 25 to 30%) and in severe cases, a person may need surgery to remove part of the colon (the major part of the large intestine).

However, there is a less drastic option available for treatment, which actually has a 90 to near 100% cure rate depending on the sample studied. Although most people are unaware of it, the name of this treatment is a fecal bacteriotherapy, which is also known as a stool transplant -- or to use a less scientific term, a poop transplant.

The technique involves taking bacteria from a health person’s feces (poop) and transplanting into the intestine of the patient with C. difficile. The technique works by restoring the normal balance of bacteria in the intestine so C. difficile can no longer thrive. If you are wondering, the poop to be transplanted is preferably collected from a close relative but can be taken from a stranger. It is then mixed with warm water, saline, or milk to reach the needed consistency.

Suggested reading: Clostridium difficile: A Patient's Guide

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