No crap: Pills made from poop cure gut infections
Hold your nose and don't spit out your coffee: Doctors have found a way to put healthy people's poop into pills that can cure serious gut infections — a less yucky way to do “fecal transplants.” Canadian researchers tried this on 27 patients and cured them all when strong antibiotics failed to help.
It's a gross topic but a serious problem. Half a million Americans get Clostridium difficile, or C-diff, infections each year, and about 14,000 die. The germ causes nausea, cramping and diarrhea so bad it is often disabling. A very potent and pricey antibiotic can kill C-diff but destroys good bacteria that live in the gut, leaving it more susceptible to infections.
Recently, studies have shown that fecal transplants — giving infected people stool from a healthy donor — can restore that balance. But they're given through expensive, invasive procedures such as colonoscopies or throat tubes. Doctors have tried giving the stool through enemas, but the treatment doesn't always take hold.
There are YouTube videos on how to do a similar treatment at home via an enema. A study in a medical journal of a small number of these “do-it-yourself” cases suggests the approach is safe and effective.
Dr. Thomas Louie, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Calgary, devised a better way — a one-time treatment custom-made for each patient.
Donor stool, usually from a relative, is processed in the lab to take out food and extract the bacteria and clean it. It is packed into triple-coated gel capsules so they won't dissolve until they reach the intestines.
“There's no stool left — just stool bugs. These people are not eating poop,” and there are no smelly burps because the contents aren't released until they're well past the stomach, Louie said.
Days before starting the treatment, patients are given an antibiotic to kill the C-diff. On the morning of the treatment, they have an enema so “the new bacteria coming in have a clean slate,” Louie said.
It takes 24 to 34 capsules to fit the bacteria needed for a treatment, and patients down them in one sitting. The pills make their way to the colon and seed it with the normal variety of bacteria.
Louie described 27 patients treated this way on Thursday at IDWeek, an infectious diseases conference in San Francisco. All had suffered at least four C-diff infections and relapses, but none had a recurrence after taking the poop pills.
Margaret Corbin, 69, a retired nurse's aide from Calgary, told of the misery of C-diff.
“It lasted for two years. It was horrible. I thought I was dying. I couldn't eat. Every time I ate anything or drank water, I was into the bathroom,” she said. “I never went anywhere. I stayed home all the time.”
With her daughter as the donor, she took pills made by Louie two years ago, and “I've been perfectly fine since,” Corbin said.
Dr. Curtis Donskey of the Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, who has done fecal transplants through colonoscopies, praised the work.
“The approach that Dr. Louie has is completely novel — no one else has done this,” he said. “I am optimistic that this type of preparation will make these procedures much easier for patients and for physicians.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- NYC police unions lose bid in stop-and-frisk case
- IRS calls right-wing Republicans ‘crazies’ in emails
- Law enforcement, intelligence agencies want to ‘like’ you on social media
- $17B emergency funding for Veterans Affairs health care system passes House, heads to Senate
- 6 narcotics officers charged with racketeering
- Ground Zero ship dated to 1773
- N.Y. opera proposes mediation as lockout looms
- Army to begin interrogation of swapped POW
- Senate report to question detention, interrogation practices, secrecy at CIA after 9/11
- Ax disengages from truck on I-95, sticks in windshield of car behind it
- Stowaway’s access to Air Force plane eyed