Feces-filled capsules treat bacterial infection

Barbara Krawcowicz/Flickr/Creative Commons

Feces-filled capsules treat bacterial infection

Clostridium difficile infections kill approximately 14,000 Americans every year, often because the diarrhea-causing bacteria are highly resistant to standard antibiotics. Now, scientists have found an unusual way to combat the bugs: human feces in pill form. Doctors have used so-called fecal transplants since the 1950s to combat various types of infections. The treatment is thought to work by restoring the gut’s natural balance of bacteria, which can outcompete the invading microbes for resources. Typically, physicians insert the donor feces rectally through a colonoscopy or a plastic tube running into the nose or mouth and down to the stomach. While these procedures are both relatively safe, they are not entirely devoid of risk. In the new study, published today in The Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers show that frozen fecal matter encapsulated in clear, 1.6 g synthetic pills (not pictured) was just as safe and effective as traditional fecal transplant techniques at treating C. difficile. Within 8 weeks or less, 18 out of 20 participants saw a complete resolution of diarrhea after consuming 30 or 60 of the feces-filled capsules. “It’s probably not the best experience of your life,” says team leader Ilan Youngster, a pediatric infectious disease doctor at Harvard University. “But it beats getting a tube stuck down your throat or a colonoscopy … or having C. diff.”

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