A young woman who suffered a devastating bacterial infection in her colon has been cured after she underwent an unusual, but life-saving, transplant involving her mother's fecal matter.
Kaitlin Hunter of Marietta, Ga., got the bacterial infection after a near-fatal car accident last year in California that left her with a fractured spine as well as a damaged liver and colon, according to CNN. The 20-year-old had spent a month in a hospital in Sacramento, before going back to Georgia. She said that when she arrived home, she experienced severe stomach pains.
"Right when I got off the plane, I went to the hospital. I was having extremely bad stomach pain," she told CNN. When she went to the hospital, doctors found that the bacteria, called Clostridium difficile [or C. diff], had infected her colon, causing her to have severe stomach pain, diarrhea and vomiting.
Doctors had given her antibiotics to cure the infection, but even after nine rounds of antibiotics, her 5-foot-7 frame wasted away to just 85 pounds and she was still sick. Doctors then decided to try a procedure known as a "fecal matter transplant" which recolonizes the patient's colon with new bacteria from a healthy donor.
According to a study conducted in 2009, the procedure has a 90 percent success rate and works by introducing a healthy person's stool into someone suffering from C. diff for the new healthy bacteria to take control and take over the bad one.
Hunter's mother had donated one of her stools for the procedure, and after the hospital lab diluted the healthy stools, doctors pumped the foreign fecal matter into Hunter's colon.
The procedure was conducted in July and Hunter is happy to report that she has been cured. "I've been so happy," Hunter said. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that C. diff infections kill about 14,000 people in the U.S. every year, and the number and severity of total cases have increased dramatically over the last 10 years.
Dr. Lawrence Brandt, a professor of medicine and surgery at New York's Albert Einstein College of Medicine, told CNN that fecal transplants are gaining popularity among people suffering from C. diff. "These patients are so ill and so much want to get better," he said. "The fact that it's stool, it doesn't matter to them."