Recently, a study about a new set of pills containing human fecal matter promises to be a very effective medicine for Clostridium difficile bacteria-causing infections.
These infections produce about 14,000 deaths and 250,000 hospitalizations in the United States annually. They usually spread when a person comes in contact with things that have been contaminated with germs such as bed linens, bathroom fixtures, etc.
A person with this infection will experience watery diarrhea, fever, nausea, loss of appetite, and stomach ache.
Fecal microbiota transplants (FMT)/fecal bacteriotheraphy is considered effective by bringing back a healthy balance of microbes. However, people choose a do-it-yourself version of FMT, in which an enema is used to transfer fecal material collected from friends or family members. This can be very risky. That is why the use of pills was being scrutinized because it may be a more appetizing alternative to help control severe diarrhea and other signs that distinguish Clostridium difficile infections.
Dr. Ilan Youngster, one of the scientists involved in the study and also a member in pediatric infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital said, “Numerous reports have shown that FMT is effective in treating active C. difficile infection and preventing recurrences in patients whose infections failed to respond to standard treatments. The procedures that have been used before–colonoscopies, nasogastric tubes, even enemas–all have potential risks and discomforts for patients.”
Working as a fellow researcher and a staff physician at Mass General, Dr. Elizabeth Hohman also stated that getting the tube down can be a problem. In addition, if people choke and vomit, they could inhale human waste, which is scary.
The study was performed at Mass General where 20 patients ranging from 11 and 84 years old, with periodic or continuous Clostridium difficile infections. Each patient was given acid-resistant capsules containing fecal material for two consecutive days. This material had been carefully accumulated from screened stool donors, which was then filtered, diluted, and frozen prior to encapsulating. A second round of medicine was given to patients whose symptoms did not improve within 72 hours.
The results were 90% successful with 14 of the patients completely healed with a single treatment and having no recurrence in the following eight weeks. Five to six patients, on the other hand, received a second dose of treatment after one week. Five were healed resulting to one patient left experiencing recurrence.