Doctors have gone back and forth about the usefulness of poop transplants, but a new study suggests that it might be an effective treatment.
What Was Found About Poop Transplants?
C. difficile infection is a bacterial illness that can cause inflammation of the colon. Patients with the illness suffer from symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. Nearly 15,000 fatalities are attributed to this infection every year.
Antibiotics are typically used as the primary treatment for C. difficile infections, with poop transplant as the last resort. A new study suggests that poop transplants might be just a good as the antibiotics.
The study was published on June 2 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
"It's definitely a paradigm shift to use it earlier rather than later," said Dr. Nasia Safdar.
With a poop transplant, doctors move fecal matter from one person into another person via an enema or a pill. The transferred poop contains healthy gut bacteria that can overtake the bad bacteria in the colon.
Antibiotics can help too, but there are some complications. Antibiotics can destroy the bad bacteria, but it is also capable of destroying the good bacteria. This destruction causes the illness in the first place, this is why it is imperative that the patient doesn't destroy bacteria during the treatment process.
C. difficile infections cost over $796 million to treat every year in the United States.
How Did Researchers Study Poop Transplants?
Researchers in Norway tested their hypothesis on 20 patients who received either a poop transplant or antibiotics. Five of the nine patients who received a poop transplant were cured. Meanwhile, five out of the 11 patients who had antibiotics were cured. That means that poop transplants were nearly as effective as antibiotics.
Since there were only 20 patients in the study, it wasn't enough to scientifically prove that poop transplants are better than antibiotics. However, the researchers are going to expand their study to 200 patients in a few months.
Future Implications Of This Poop Transplant Study
There is still some debate as to when to introduce a poop transplant as a treatment. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that patients try antibiotics first before turning to a poop transplant. The problem is that it could take months of antibiotics before a patient is instructed to use other methods. Some doctors are also not certain that frequent poop transplants would be effective.