The Poop Pill Cure for C. diff

Image of C. difficile from BBC News. Image of C. difficile from BBC News.

You may recall a prior post about a dog that could smell when patients were infected with Clostridium difficile. C. difficile causes about 14,000 deaths per year in the United States. Recent breakthroughs in understanding gut microbes have led to the successful treatment of C. difficile  in patients. Fecal transplants, the transfer of feces from a healthy person, has been life-saving for some patients for whom medical treatments are not effective or for recurrent infections. Listen to Billie's story here. To date, feces have been transferred by enemas, colonoscopies as well as nasal tubes...not exactly comfortable techniques. New research from Dr. Thomas Louie at the University of Calgary (Alberta, Canada) has presented evidence that capsules filled with microbes isolated from human feces may be just as effective...while taking out the "yuck" factor.  His data showed that the capsules cured all but one of the 31 patients in his study.

The reason fecal transplants or microbe transplants are effective in treating C. difficile is because the disease often results from antibiotic use that destroys the normal balance of gut microbes. Therefore, the microbes from a healthy donor help to return the balance to normal.


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Excellent news. C.Diff is a killer-diller, and the prospect of an innocent-looking capsule of good bacteria to treat it, minus the necessarily-bearable Yuck factor of the unrefined method, is a major step forward.

I am eagerly awaiting the time when antibiotics are put on FDA Schedule II, extended to veterinary antibiotics as well.

I'd really like to see more from a rational blogger about this area of medical research. I have followed the use of streptococcus salivarius for chronic respiratory tract infection, the use of bacteriophages in the former soviet union to treat bacterial infection and the experiments with helminths in an attempt to damp down autoimmune hyperreactivity diseases. The problem often is that inteernet information is provided by proponents rather than disinterested scientists.

By Jonathan Grice (not verified) on 14 Oct 2013 #permalink