Using Fecal Transplants To Treat Bacterial Infections
One of the areas with the biggest “ick factor” has to be the use of fecal transplants, both because of the introduction of bacteria and fecal matter. Just as the same suggests, the procedure involves transplanting fecal material from one person to another. The feces are taken from a healthy “donor”, diluted and provided to the patient rectally with an enema or through a feeding tube into the intestines.
In this case, doctors are sometimes using the treatment to eliminate infection by Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) bacteria. These diarrhea-causing bacteria are fairly contagious and usually spread through fecal material themselves. In about 10% of cases, the bacteria have developed antibiotic resistance meaning that normal antibiotic treatment is not effective in killing them. Patients who get these sorts of infections can suffer from severe, recurring diarrhea.
For patients like these, researchers from McMaster University attempted a fecal transplant or fecal bacteriotherapy trial. In their trial, the scientists used an enema to provide fecal material to patients who had not recovered after antibiotic treatments. Among the patients involved in the research effort, 92% recovery following the treatment and most felt better only 1 day later. This shows the treatment as extremely effective in eliminating C. difficile infections in comparison to the best antibiotic treatment being only 80% effective.
Treating Ulcerative Colitis With Fecal Transplantation
In other efforts using fecal transplantation, researchers have also seen success. In a 2003 study, the research team at the Center for Digestive Diseases in Australia reported successfully treating a number of patients for ulcerative colitis. The disease is chronic and involves varying levels of intestinal inflammation that can lead to significant pain, nausea, malnutrition and damaged tissue.
In this use of fecal transplantation, the researchers also used an enema with diluted fecal material that was retained in the body for a number of minutes. The procedure was repeated on 5 consecutive days and the patients were followed for the next 13 years. Among the patients in the study, all had complete remission of their ulcerative colitis symptoms without need for further treatments making the treatment effectively a cure for the condition.
Lowering Insulin Resistance With Transplanted Fecal Material
Another study to mention here that uses fecal material transplants was one conducted in 2010 by the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam. In this study, the researchers were interested in whether insulin resistance in patients with metabolic syndrome could be reduced using fecal material transplantation.
In this research effort, scientists transplanted fecal material from lean “donors” into 9 male patients who were recently diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. They also provided another 9 donors with their own fecal material. They then observed the patients for a number of weeks.
After 6 weeks, the researchers measured decreased insulin resistance in the patients who had received fecal transplants from lean donors. Specifically, they found that these patients had a 20% lower rate of blood glucose when at rest in comparison to the patients who did not receive the same treatment. Although this study was a small one, it clearly demonstrates the potential benefits that could come from treating patients with metabolic syndrome using fecal transplantation.