The use of cured stools from healthy donors has been found effective at treating Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) through a process known as Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT). The fecal matter is frozen before being administered orally as capsules to patients, and it has been found to be very effective at treating up to 90% of patients suffering from C. difficile.
C. difficile is a bacterium of the human digestive system, and it causes severe bowel swelling and colon inflammations. Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) can affect adults and children alike, and it can be very recurrent even after treatment with standard antibiotics – and needless to say it can cause great illness and death.
Symptoms of C. difficile include persistent watery diarrhea that might last for days and even be blood-stained; high fever; loss of appetite; nausea; abdominal tenderness and pains. The infection is contracted through contaminated surfaces where spores of C. difficile that had been passed out through feces of infected persons survive for several months.
According to a successful study conducted by Dr. Ilan Youngster of the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, frozen stool matter from screened persons was capsulized and administered orally to about 20 patients with several episodes of CDI, and a 90% rate of clinical resolution of diarrhea was recorded in the patients after they received 15 capsules of the matter on two consecutive days. The researchers chose oral administration of the frozen fecal matter in order to avoid the need for invasive gastrointestinal procedures.
And according to the researchers, “If reproduced in future studies with active controls, these results may help make FMT accessible to a wider population of patients, in addition to potentially making the procedure safer. The use of frozen inocula allows for screening of donors in advance. Furthermore, storage of frozen material allows retesting of donors for possible incubating viral infections prior to administration. The use of capsules obviates the need for invasive procedures for administration, further increasing the safety of FMT by avoiding procedure-associated complications and significantly reducing cost.”
The encapsulated frozen fecal matter administered orally proved very effective at eradicating C. difficile where standard antibiotics had failed, and it also proved effective at preventing relapses and restoring healthy gut microbiota. However, practicalities and safety concerns are still issues preventing widespread use of the process. But then, a team of researchers from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Hamburg, Germany, has discovered a new way to treat infections of C. difficile bacteria by engineering viruses to “eat” them.