Fecal Transplant Anyone?
Would give your nearest and dearest some of your bone marrow at a time of need? A kidney perhaps? How about a pile of your poo? Doctors in Canada are finding the best remedy for a potentially deadly infection may be a fecal transplant. Yes, you read it correctly. FECAL transplant.
The Straight Poop On The Disease
The last place you’d expect to get sicker is in a hospital, right? But illnesses you catch during a stay in a long-term care facility or hospital are on the rise. One of the most widespread and potentially serious bacterial infections is Clostridium difficile known simply as C. difficile (or C. Diff). In fact, 253,000 hospitalized patients were affected by C. difficile-associated disease (CDAD) in 2005-more than double the number in 2000, according to the CDC.
Complications of the infection can include kidney failure as a result of severe dehydration, bowel perforation, or a ruptured colon – both of which spill bacteria into the abdominal cavity, or even death.
Crappy Treatment Options
Up until now, the most common treatment was antibiotics such as metronidazole or vancomycin, which get rid of the C. difficile but allow normal bacteria to flourish in the intestine. However, both antibiotics kill only the active form of C. difficile, not the tough spores it produces. Because these spores remain in the body, the infection can return – sometimes more than once. What’s more, it was probably a heavy dose of antibiotics that allowed C. Diff to flourish in the first place.
For doctors in Scandinavia, the first choice for treatment of C. Diff is “fecal bacteriotherapy” according to Dr Johan Bakken of St. Luke’s Infectious Disease Associates in Duluth, Minn. Dr. Bakken says the treatment restores colon health by reintroducing missing bacterial flora from stool collected by a healthy donor.
The poop is liquefied, mixed with saline, and then generally administered via enema. Normal bowel function is usually restored within 24 hours of treatment. Published studies show that more than 90 percent of patients are cured through fecal transplants – and many after just one treatment.
Finding Someone To Shoot The Sh*t
It’s difficult to find a physician in the US to perform fecal transplants, but more and more Canadian doctors are performing the procedures.
Toronto resident Wendy Sinukoff provided the poop for her sister, Marcia Munro, who had suffered from C. Diff for 14 months. The transplant was performed by Dr. Tom Louie, head of infection control at Foothills Hospital in Calgary.
“I had to collect stool samples for five days prior to our leaving Toronto, and I collected it in an ice cream container and kept it in the fridge,” said Minkoff. “My biggest fear was that my samples were not allowed to be frozen, so I had to take them as carry-on luggage in the airplane and I was terrified that I was going to be asked to have my luggage searched,” she said.
Sinukoff’s sister said the transplant was a success. “This procedure cured me… I know many people die from C. difficile and I want people to know there is hope when you have this illness.”
“Never underestimate the healing power of stool,” says Dr. Thomas Moore, a colleague of Dr. Bakken, who has personally performed at least 65 fecal enemas with a 97% success rate. “Sick elephants in the wild are fed stool from their mothers, so the treatment idea is nothing new.”
Indeed. Over the years, I’ve suggested to several ex-boyfriends that they ought to “eat sh*t.” I certainly felt better after saying it.