Poop Pill Sees Promising Results for Treating Gut Infection

Thursday, 03 Oct 2013 07:16 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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Gut infections from C-diff bacteria kill about 14,000 people in the United States every year, and Canadian researchers may have come up with a cure – a rather gross cure – involving taking a pill containing poop from healthy people.

Almost 250,000 people get C-diff infections, caused by Clostridium difficile bacteria, every year, and while the suggested cure sounds pretty disgusting, a Canadian researcher found it worked on 27 patients who were not cured by the standard strong antibiotic treatment, The Associated Press said.

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The side effects of the original antibiotic treatment can cause problems, killing off good and necessary gut bacteria as it attacks the C-diff. One option doctors currently use on C-diff cases that don’t respond to antibiotics was to give fecal transplants, which means putting stool from a healthy person into the infected person’s gut either through a colonoscopy or down a throat tube, AP said.

Yuck. But the transplant helps, and now poop pills created by Dr. Thomas Louie at the University of Calgary may offer a less invasive option to get good bacteria back into the gut.

Patients with C-diff often can’t get rid of the infection, despite strong antibiotic treatments, and tend to get recurrences.

In his study, Louie first killed the C-diff with antibiotics and then had patients take two or three dozen poop pills (which actually don't contain whole poop — it's gone through a process to just extract the right bacteria), and none of the 27 had a recurrence, the AP said. Before the pill treatment, most of them had had multiple flares of C-diff.

Louie has treated additional patients since he did the research, and he got the same result.

Fecal transplants have become a go-to method of treating C-diff that just won’t go away, with 500-700 done around the world each year, NBC News said.

Despite the gross factor associated with the idea of ingesting fecal matter, it can be a blessing for C-diff patients.

“It lasted for two years. It was horrible. I thought I was dying. I couldn't eat. Every time I ate anything or drank water I was into the bathroom,” a patient with C-diff told AP. “I never went anywhere, I stayed home all the time.”

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Related stories:

Drug-Resistant Superbugs Are Urgent Threats: US Report

Hospitals Combat Superbugs with Germ-Zapping Robots

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