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Poop-transplant pills treat intestinal infection

Freezing donated gut bacteria keeps them fresh to fight Clostridium difficile

By
2:07pm, October 16, 2014

CHILL PILLS  Freezing healthy gut bacteria sieved from poop extends their shelf life for later use in treating C. difficile infections. 

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Freezing fecal transplants and delivering them to patients in pills is an effective treatment for intestinal infections caused by Clostridium difficile bacteria, researchers report October 11 in JAMA.

C. difficile infections cause abdominal pain, bring on diarrhea and can be fatal. Transplanting healthy gut bacteria from donated poop can treat these pernicious infections by providing healthy microbes.

Researchers have already given a small group of patients fecal transplants in pill form, which is safer and less invasive than using nasal tubes and enemas (SN Online: 10/4/13). But even those transplants have disadvantages. Because doctors must screen donors to make sure they are healthy, in dire cases there often isn’t enough time to use the treatment. And the good bacteria have a shelf life of only six hours.

“By using frozen samples, you can screen donors ahead of time and establish a ‘stool bank’ that is ready to use at a moment’s notice,” says lead author Ilan Youngster, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Youngster and colleagues extracted healthy gut bacteria from donated stool and froze the microbes in capsules.

Twenty people with C. difficile infections received the pills. In 14 patients, the infection cleared up after taking 30 capsules over two days. Four more people improved after a second round of capsules, giving the treatment an overall success rate of 90 percent.

Citations

I. Youngster et al. Oral, capsulized, frozen fecal microbiota transplantation for relapsing Clostridium difficile infection. JAMA. Published online October 11, 2014. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.13875.

Further Reading

N. Seppa. Drug appears safe in children with C. difficile infections. Science News Online, October 14, 2014.

E. Engelhaupt. Introducing the first bank of feces. Science News Online, February 12, 2014.

N. Seppa. Good bacteria from poop stop resistant infection. Science News Online, October 4, 2013.

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