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Good News: You Can Now Take Your Fecal Transplant Orally


(Image: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Healthy bacteria within the colon are essential to fighting off infections of the bacterium Clostridium difficile. If you don't have the proper bacteria in your colon to do so, then it may be necessary for doctors to perform a fecal transplant. That means that the doctors take fecal matter from one person and, by means of a colonscopy, tranfer that fecal matter inside your own colon.

A colonoscopy is rather invasive and uncomfortable--or so I've heard. Thankfully, a study led by Dr. Elizabeth Hohmann of the Massachusetts General Hospital Infectious Diseases Division may have found an alternative approach. Dr. Hohmann and her colleagues took fecal donations from healthy people and turned them into pills that patients can swallow. Rachel Feltman writes for the Washington Post:

The process starts the same way as usual, Hohmann said: "Sort of gross, but pretty simple." Exceptionally healthy young people — those that pass all requirements for blood donation, as well as being screened for other health factors — provide stool samples, which are then blended with medical-grade saline and filtered.

But instead of that uniform liquid being pumped into a patient, it's concentrated into a single capsule. Another layer of capsule goes on top, and the whole thing is kept frozen. A single treatment requires a gulp-worthy 30 pills — 15 on the first day and 15 on the second. But don't knock it: In a trial of 20 patients, it brought normal bowel health and function to 18 — which is the same rate of success seen in more invasive methods.

Plus it's cheaper. Hohmann estimates that the entire course would cost $500 — one sixth the price of either a colonoscopy or a standard course of antibiotics.

-via Dave Barry


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