The stubborn bacterium Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) is severe enough to send its victims to the hospital with life-threatening diarrhea. Americans spend an estimated $3.2 billion battling this bacterium, involved in some 14,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.
A study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests an unconventional way of treating the C. difficile infections — capsules that contain frozen feces. The research, conducted by a team from Tel Aviv University, Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Boston Children’s Hospital, suggests the solution may be found in frozen fecal samples of healthy people, whose gastrointestinal tracts contain just the right mix of bacteria. By transplanting fecal samples from healthy patients into guts infected by C. difficile, the researchers were able to resuscitate the ailing gastrointestinal tracts.
For their study, the scientists collected samples from four healthy donors who hadn’t taken antibiotics for at least six months. The donated stool was screened for diseases and harmful bacteria, placed in a blender and mixed with saline, then strained. The remaining “slurry” was concentrated and packed into capsules, which were then frozen.
Overall, the researchers found, the frozen “poop pills” led to a clinical resolution of diarrhea in 90% of the patients. On average, it took four days for the pills to work. Though the researchers described the results as preliminary, they said they could help make fecal transplants “accessible to a wider population of patients, in addition to potentially making the procedure safer.”
For more, read the story in the Los Angeles Times: “Study: Frozen poop pills may make fecal transplants simpler and safer”