Study: ‘Poop Transplants’ May Help Battle Bacterial Infections

According to a recent study, so-called “poop transplants” may help people battle a particular kind of bacterial infection. The process, also known as “fecal transplants,” may not sound too appealing, but its effects are proving to be beneficial.

My Health News Daily reports that researchers removed fecal matter from a healthy subject and pumped it into the patient’s infected colon. As a result, a few individuals suffering from the effects of Clostridium difficile bacteria noticed a positive change within about a week.

According to Reuters, not everyone who suffers from the bacterial infection is willing to undergo “bacteriotherapy,” which some jokingly refer to as “transpoosion.” After all, the transplant doesn’t sound particularly enjoyable: in order to receive the healthy fecal matter, the goods must be pumped into the body by colonoscope or an enema. Alternatively, the poop can be introduced into the body through the nose and mouth.

Professor Thomas Borody explains that administering poop transplants doesn’t make him the most popular person on the planet. “I used to be frowned upon and called ‘the doctor who makes people eat s—,’ ” Borody explained. Although the process may sound extremely gross, University of Minnesota Medical School gastroenterologist Alex Khoruts explained that there is simply no question that the process works.

“The patients I see don’t have any qualms about it,” Khoruts explained. “By the time I see them, they’ve often been sick for anywhere from six months to two years, so they’re quite desperate. Nothing really scares them. What we try to do is preserve it as close as possible to how it was in the donor. There’s no in-between culture or enrichment. We want to transfer as much as we can intact.”

Wikipedia explains what can happen when the bacteria becomes a problem:

“In a very small percentage of the adult population, C. difficile bacteria naturally reside in the gut. Other people accidentally ingest spores of the bacteria while they are patients in a hospital, nursing home, or similar facility. When the bacteria are in a colon in which the normal gut flora has been destroyed (usually after a broad-spectrum antibiotic such as clindamycin has been used), the gut becomes overrun with C. difficile. This overpopulation is harmful because the bacteria release toxins that can cause bloating and diarrhea, with abdominal pain, which may become severe.”

Clostridium difficile bacteria is also one of the common causes of pseudomembranous colitis, which can sometimes lead to toxic megacolon. Doctors hope poop transplants can ultimately prevent this from occurring in their patients.

In order to prepare the healthy fecal matter for its journey into the patient, the donated material goes through a kind of decontamination process. After being fed through a filter in order to remove any large or unwanted particles from the feces, the healthy poop is then mixed with a saline solution and run through a blender. Although the very idea makes patients gag, doctors seem to prefer the mouth and nose when performing the transplant.

Would you undergo a poop transplant if it meant being cured of an illness?