Poop has been all over the news lately. (And no, I’m not talking about the recent election.) I’m referring to fecal transplant, the process of transferring a healthy person’s stool into a sick person’s colon in order to restore the bacterial balance. It sounds bizarre, and even a little crazy, but doctors and scientists all over the country are discovering just how effective fecal transplants can be.
Just last week, the Chicago Tribune wrote a story predicting that stool banks may one day be just as common as blood banks. Human stool transplants have been found to consistently cure up to 90 percent of patients who have had multiple episodes of C. difficile, an infection which causes serious diarrhea and affects about 3 million people per year. Typically, these infections are treated with antibiotics such as vancomycin, which can actually make the infection worse by killing off beneficial bacteria and allowing the resistant C diff. to survive. This recurring infection can be fatal, killing an average of 14,000 Americans every year. It’s especially dangerous for young children and the elderly who are more susceptible to the bacteria that causes the colonic inflammation and diarrhea.
Use of the procedure is simple and shockingly effective for patients with serious bowel infections. CNN recently reported on a young girl who nearly died from the infection, and was cured immediately by a fecal transplant using stool donated from her mother. This recovery was after nine rounds of antibiotics failed to eliminate her life-threatening infection. While the idea of receiving a fecal transplant may disgust some, the sickest patients aren’t fazed by the “ick factor” of the procedure. If it helps them recover from their serious illness, they’re willing to try it.
Several studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of the procedure on treating not only C. difficile, but other conditions as well. (1) Various studies have shown fecal bacteriotherapy, to be effective in colitis, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and some neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s Disease. (2, 3, 4, 5) Researchers in Amsterdam are even running a clinical trial to see if fecal transplants can help treat obesity. (6) I’ve written before that the composition of the gut flora is one of many factors that affects weight regulation, and fecal transplant could very well be a future obesity treatment. (7) There may be countless other conditions that could be helped by this simple, effective, and safe procedure.
I’m fascinated by fecal bacteriotherapy and have read all the studies on it. It’s a miraculous treatment in certain conditions, and we have yet to tap into its full potential in treating a number of gut-related illnesses. I’m excited to see how this therapy develops, and wouldn’t be surprised to see the creation of stool banks in a few years. Fecal transplant may be a disgusting concept to some, but who knows – one day it could save your life!