Bacteria Transplant Effective At Treating Bowel Infection

Persistent bacterial infections can make a mess of our bowels and the usual treatment method of adding antibiotics usually causes even more disruptions. Researchers, however, are fine tuning a treatment that involves adding a sample of the stool of another which jump-starts the infected patients immune system, reports Kerry Grens for Reuters Health.

The procedure is used primarily to treat patients with infections from the bacterium Clostridium difficile. “It´s unbelievably effective,” said Dr. Neil Stollman, who was not involved in this research, but who has reported similar success using colonoscopy to deliver a stool transplant.

“C. diff,” as doctors refer to it, can cause chronic diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal pain and complications such as kidney failure or a hole in the colon. Treating other infections with antibiotics can disrupt the body´s normal bacterial harmony.

The researchers, led by Dr. Christine Lee at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, asked two healthy volunteers to donate fecal matter, which was diluted in water and given to by enema to 27 patients who had failed to recover after antibiotic treatments.

“The rationale for using an enema is it can be used in any setting and it´s not an invasive procedure,” Lee says.

All but two of the patients recovered after the procedure, and the vast majority felt better within one day, Lee and her colleagues report in Archives of Internal Medicine.

“I would recommend it to anyone who has had recurrent Clostridium difficile infection. Right now we´re dealing with a high rate of relapse, particularly in light of the type of strain that´s circulating now. It´s difficult to treat,” explains Lee.

How, exactly, the transplanted material helps yet unclear. Lee believes it could be that the newly introduced bacteria outcompete the C. diff bugs, or it could be that bacterial by-products in the stool help restore balance to the gut.

“The whole underpinning of this procedure is, if I don´t know which bacteria to put in and in what concentration, let´s put it all in,” said Stollman. “It´s an inelegant procedure with an elegant outcome.”

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