The pieces may finally be falling into place for advocates of the so-called "poop transplant." The unconventional therapy may seem weird, but it is also effective, according to the newest study to date on the cure, presented yesterday at an infectious diseases research meeting in San Diego.
Researchers from the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit found that 46 of the 49 patients treated with healthy fecal matter got better within a week of the treatment, according to MyHealthNewsDaily.
The treatment used to be a last ditch option. Some even jokingly referred to it as "transpoosion," according to Reuters.
But whatever you call it, the results of this latest study indicate that the treatment no laughing matter for patients suffering from the increasingly widespread Clostridium difficile bug, which causes severe, watery diarrhea.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Clostridium diff. infections also cause the deaths of 14,000 Americans every year. Those most at risk are people, especially older adults, who take antibiotics and also get medical care. Current treatment with antibiotics is often found to be "suboptimal," and leads to recurrences in up to 50 percent of patients.
"C. diff is a serious infection — people die from this. With this treatment, the cure rate is close to 100 percent," said study researcher Dr. Mayur Ramesh, an infectious disease physician at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
But there is still that smelly elephant in the room.
In literal terms, the transplant consists very literally of a volunteer's healthy poop, mixed with warm water, and delivered into a patient's colons, either by colonoscope or an enema, or by the mouth or the nose. For years, doctors attempting to save patients using the treatment had to deal with, well, a lot of crap for outsiders.
"I used to be frowned upon and called 'the doctor who makes people eat shit,'" Professor Thomas Borody, a Sydney-based gastroenterologist, told Reuters.
While naysayers may feel the treatment is icky, Ramesh told MyHealthNewsDaily that no patients he approached declined the transplant.
"These patients, they suffer so much from their symptoms," he said. "When I tell them about this treatment, they say, 'wow, that makes sense, go ahead and do it.'"
The healthy poop often came from the spouse or child of a patient, but in some cases, siblings, parents, or even unrelated people donated fecal matter.
The next step for the treatment, which has gained visibility after several high profile successes such as the case of a young woman named Kaitlin Hunter, will need to submit to a series of important randomized controlled trials. One trial is already approved in fact, which will study two groups of patients--one group receiving fecal matter from healthy donors, as well as the "control patients," who will instead be receiving their own fecal matter, according to an article published in September in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.