It might make you shudder a little, but this radical new treatment is creating quite a buzz in the medical world. It has been shown to have a 90 per cent success rate in treating a common infection for older people, and is described by the Mayo Clinic as “quick and effective”.
The thing is, it involves poo – and worse still, someone else’s poo, which is introduced into your bowel to overwhelm pathogens and restore health to your gut.
The gut is an important reservoir for drug-resistant bacteria responsible for life-threatening hospital-acquired infections.
Faecal transplant is of growing interest to health experts, and has been used to treat symptoms of IBS, for chronic diarrhoea caused by an infection called Clostridium difficile, and to overcome parasitic infections. And now a new study shows it could be used in the fight against deadly hospital superbugs.
A research team from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York investigated the interactions between vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE) and multi-drug resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae in the intestinal environment. Together, these two pathogens are responsible for about 10 per cent of serious hospital-acquired infections. Both can colonise the gut and spread from there to cause localised or systemic infections.
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In trials, they showed that transplanting healthy faeces into mice decrease the incidence of K. pneumoniae within one day and became undetectable within seven days. VRE was cleared in 60 per cent of the mice and reduced by a thousand-fold in the remaining 40 per cent.
Faecal transplants could provide the answer to the growing problems of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and parasites, provided we can get over the ick-factor.
The procedure itself is reasonably straight-forward. Donor stool is screened for parasites and infectious organisms, diluted with saline and strained. It is administered via colonoscopy or endoscopy. Typically, a person’s preference is to use a family member as the donor, which may have you quizzing your loved ones about their gut health… or it might not!
Tell us, would you be open to this treatment is it was required – or is it just too gross to contemplate?