A new study has proved that fecal transplants can work better than antibiotics against Clostridium difficile infection (CDI).
The study, which was published online by the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, showed that fecal transplants were able to clear a recurrent bacterial infection much faster and more reliably than prescribed antibiotics.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the transplant was so successful during the clinical trial that it was ended early so that the control group patients could be given the remedy as well.
C. diff affects about one percent of all patients hospitalized in the United States and also plays a role in about 100,000 deaths per year. In the study, the transplant showed a 94 percent cure rate. That rate is three times higher than the cure rate for those who just took the antibiotic vancomycin.
Dr. Lawrence Brandt, a gastroenterologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, who has performed fecal transplants for 14 years, stated:
“It’s a strange concept to use stool, which has always been looked on as something dirty. We’re entering a very exciting new chapter in medicine.”
Fecal transplants have been seen as a fringe medical treatment for several years, but they have quickly been gaining more interest among physicians and patients. Part of the interest stems from the explosion in cases of CDI among elderly patients in nursing homes and hospitals. The infection is getting more and more difficult to treat because of the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
CBS News notes that C. diff is a bacteria that produces toxins and causes gas, bloating, diarrhea, fever, nausea, and severe abdominal pain. The not-so-pleasant-sounding procedure works by taking donor feces and infusing it into the small intestine of patients with CDI.
The study was the first to take a group of people with recurring CDI and compare a fecal transplant against other treatments. Previous research on the transplants has relied on observational reports. Dr. Josbert Keller a gastroenterologist at the Hagaziekenhuis hospital in The Hague in the Netherlands, who authored the study, stated:
“After the first four or five patients, we started thinking, ‘We can’t go on doing this kind of obscure treatment without evidence.’ Everybody is laughing about it.”
But with the results of the study, it is unlikely that critics are laughing now. Would you consider a fecal transplant, knowing it would almost guarantee your disease was cured?