In the texting lexicon, the poop emoji can be used to convey bathroom behavior, crappy circumstances, or icky feelings. But with its big eyes and wide smile, the poop emoji is also sometimes employed to express happiness and humor.
In science, poop is also incredibly versatile. One surprising use: It is a highly effective and safe medical treatment for Clostridium difficile (C. diff), a serious bacterial infection that affects nearly half a million U.S. patients annually, killing roughly 29,000.
C. diff most commonly occurs in older adults in hospital or long-term care settings, often after treatment with antibiotics. Symptoms include diarrhea, bloody stool, stomach pain, and fever.
Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) — in which stool from a healthy person is introduced into the digestive tract of a sick individual — has been used experimentally for decades. But recently, data have begun to emerge suggesting this treatment is a safer and more effective way to combat C. diff than using drugs, especially because C. diff is often resistant to antibiotics.
The American Gastroenterologist Association recently released results from the National Institutes of Health’s first national FMT registry of 259 patient-recipients. The most common method of FMT delivery was colonoscopy followed by upper endoscopy.
Overall, FMT cured 90% of patients in the study with very few serious side effects. Infections occurred in only 11 participants, and it's unclear if they were related to the FMT therapy.
If you or a loved one tests positive for C. diff, don't pooh-pooh FMT. It may be the best first-line treatment.