"Fecal transplants," an experimental therapy that uses donated human stools to treat people with the notoriously hard-to-treat Clostridium difficile infection that causes severe watery diarrhea is safe and effective researchers claim.
Researchers at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit transplanted fecal matter from healthy people into the colons of people infected with C. diff and found that 46 of the 49 patients studied got better within a week of treatment.
Fecal transplants work by mixing the 30 to 50 grams of stool from a health donor with warm water and then transporting the mixture via a tube into a patient's colon to help re-establish the normal balance of bacteria in the intestine.
C. diff is a serious and painful condition, and researchers said that the latest findings show that fecal transplants are an effective way to help rid of the infection that is linked to 14,000 deaths annually.
"More than 90 percent of the patients in our study were cured of their C. diff infection," Dr. Mayur Ramesh, a Henry Ford Infectious Diseases physician and senior author of the study, said in a statement. "This treatment is a viable option for patients who are not responding to conventional treatment and who want to avoid surgery."
Some of the symptoms associated with C. diff include watery diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite, nausea and abdominal pain and tenderness. The infection usually occurs in patients taking antibiotics and can spread from person-to-person contact or from touching contaminated surfaces and objects.
Currently, patients are typically treated with the antibiotics metronidazole or vancomycin or surgery to remove the infected part of the intestines.
Researchers note that while previous studies have shown that infections recur in 25 percent to 30 percent of patients who receive the standard treatment for C. diff, more than 90 percent of those in the latest study treated with fecal transplant successfully recovered.
Researchers presenting the study at the annual Infectious Diseases Society of America meeting in San Diego said that patients developed no complications or side effects as the result of their transplants three months after treatment.
"Patients who receive treatment through a nasogastric tube don't taste or smell the stool mixture as it's administered," Ramesh said. "Patients often resume their diet within a couple hours and are feeling better within 24 hours."
Of the 49 patients, 43 fully recovered, four died of causes unrelated to their C. diff infection, one had intestinal surgery and one experienced no improvement.