Transplanting faecal matter from one person to another – the thought might turn your stomach, but it could be lifesaving. Some doctors are using the procedure to repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria, which can become unbalanced in some diseases.
Dr Alisdair MacConnachie, who thinks he is the only UK doctor to carry out the procedure for Clostridium difficle infection, describes it as a proven treatment. He says it should be used, but only as a treatment of last resort. C. difficile infection is caused by antibiotics wiping out swathes of bacteria in the gut. The theory is that by adding more bacteria to the bowels, they will compete with C. difficile bacteria and control the infection.
A relative’s sample is generally used, preferably one who lives with the patient, because living in the same environment and eating the same food means they are more likely to have similar bowel bacteria. About 30g (1oz) is taken and blitzed in a household blender with some salt water. This is poured through a coffee filter to leave a watery liquid. The doctor inserts a tube up the patient’s nose and down to the stomach. Other doctors use a different route to the bowels. About 30ml (1fl oz) of liquid is poured down the tube.
The practice has been reported only as a series of small case by case studies for recurrent C. difficile infection. There has been an average success rate about 90%. However, this is not enough for the technique to be widely adopted. The gold standard for determining if a treatment works is a randomised clinical trial. Until such a trial takes place, widespread acceptance will be difficult achieve.
Source: BBC News
Image: ABC News