Clostridium Difficile and How Eating Poo Could Save Your Life…

What if I told you that eating other people’s poo could one day save your life? Now there’s a meme…

Wait! Come back! I’m not actually about to suggest you start eating number twos; this is only the case for people with a specific illnesses, so you can enjoy reading about it with morbid fascination and no real fear that you might have to do it yourself…

So what is this mysterious disease? And how can poop possibly provide a cure?

What Is Clostridium Difficile?

Specifically, the condition in question is a bacterial infection called ‘C Diff’ or ‘Clostridium Difficile’. This is a very stubborn bacterial infection that causes severe diarrhea and that in some cases can even be fatal. The infection normally comes on as a result of taking antibiotics for unrelated conditions.

While antibiotics are designed to kill off infections caused by bad bacteria, they actually can’t differentiate between the bad types of bacteria and the good ‘friendly’ kinds, such as the types that line our gut. In short, using antibiotics can kill off large amounts of your gut’s usual flora, which in turn paves the way for C Diff to overrun the intestines. The condition isn’t all that rare either and kills over 14,000 people in the US each year.

Perhaps the worst thing about C Diff though (other than the treatment), is the fact that it’s so difficult to treat through conventional means. Unfortunately, clostridium difficile is largely resistant to antibiotics seeing as those are what caused the problem in the first place.

Fortunately, a new discovery has provided the answer, even if it is a somewhat unpleasant one…

A Bitter Pill to Swallow…

The solution? ‘Fecal Transplants’ – which is pretty much what it sounds like.

Because our stomachs naturally contain the correct balance of bacteria normally, that ratio of bacteria is also found in our excrement. Thus, it is possible to take the feces of someone healthy and to implant it into the body of the patient. Normally the ‘donor’ will be a relative.

Unfortunately, fecal transplants are tricky and invasive to perform, so doctors and scientists came up with an alternative method of deliver: pumping the poo through a tube down the nose of the patient and into the gut. Perhaps unsurprisingly, patients weren’t too keen on this method and would often gag or choke on the fecal matter, rendering the process difficult and even dangerous. Not to mention horrendously disgusting

Thus the ‘poo pill’ was born. Simply, researchers found that they could deliver the fecal matter via capsules instead that the patients could just swallow with no risk of gagging (1). As long as you don’t think about it, it’s no different from a Paracetamol.

As an added bonus, the ‘poo pill’ uses frozen poo, which means it can be stored for long periods of time meaning there’s no need for a ‘fresh’ donation.

One downside though, is that the capsules need to be acid resistant if they are to survive past the stomach all the way to the intestines. Unfortunately, the only acid-resistant capsules available… are translucent… thus ensure that you never forget that you are in fact swallowing poo pills.

But hey, it’s definitely an improvement on the whole pipe thing!

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