October 4, 2013
New Poop Pills Cure Chronic Intestinal Infections
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Recent studies have shown infections with the bacteria Clostridium difficile (C. diff) can be cured if other bacteria can be transplanted into the patient’s gut. Doctors from Amsterdam, Canada and elsewhere have successfully transferred these bacteria by means of fecal transplant, or placing a sterile stool sample from a healthy person into the patient’s stomach. Tests have shown this procedure is highly effective, curing up to 94 percent of C. diff-infected patients in one study. However, the process of transplanting the bacteria was either invasive or uncomfortable.
Now, a doctor from Calgary has developed a way to transfer healthy bacteria from stool samples and encapsulate them in pill form. In their tests, all 27 patients who swallowed the new pill were cured of their infections, even after strong antibiotics failed to help.
“Recurrent C. diff infection is such a miserable experience and patients are so distraught that many ask for fecal transplantation because they’ve heard of its success,” said Dr. Thomas Louie, professor of medicine at the University of Calgary, Alberta and the creator of the fecal pills.
“Many people might find the idea of fecal transplantation off-putting, but those with recurrent infection are thankful to have a treatment that works. There's no stool left - just stool bugs. These people are not eating poop," Louie told Fox News.
According to Dr. Louie’s research, this new method is not only more pleasant but also more effective than previous treatments, which included delivering the clean stool sample via enema or tube running to the gut. Some patients hoping get rid of their infection even try do-it-yourself methods, but Dr. Louie says the pill provides an easy and effective one-time treatment.
The clean and healthy stool samples are processed in the lab to remove food waste and extract the healthy bacteria. From here, the bacteria are cleaned once more before they're packed into a triple coated gel capsule. The extra coatings work to make sure the pill doesn’t dissolve until it passes through the stomach and reaches the patient’s intestines.
Though the pills are much easier to take than having tubes run to their stomachs, patients must still endure some brief discomfort. Days before the treatment, patients are given a round of strong antibiotics, and on the day they're scheduled to take the pill, doctors give them an enema to give the fecal pills “a clean slate” to work with, says Louie.
Patients will then take anywhere from 24 to 34 pills in one sitting to deliver the right amount of bacteria needed to kill the C. diff infection.
“The pills are a one-shot deal and seem to work. They are easier for patients and are well-tolerated,” said Dr. Louie. "It's an exciting development in the field and could possibly even be used to maintain the balance of bacteria in the GI system in patients at risk for C. diff."
A recurrent C. diff infection is more than just frustrating and unpleasant - it can be quite deadly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), C. diff infections are responsible for killing 14,000 Americans every year, a number which has been steadily increasing in the last ten years.