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Sunday 16th June 2019

Stool transplant to fight C diff superbug

14th December 2010

Doctors can treat Clostridium difficile (C diff), a superbug that causes difficult-to-treat intestinal infections and may kill about 15,000 people a year, by transplanting stool from healthy people.

c diff

Although the treatment may appear distasteful to some, several doctors in the US have performed the therapy, known as faecal transplantation, with some success.

Lawrence Brandt, of the Montefiore Medical Centre in New York, who has performed 17 faecal transplants, said that the treatment (which was first used in 1958) was like taking the ultimate probiotic.

He said that the past year had seen a sharp rise in faecal transplants.

C diff can be a painful experience, and some sufferers develop colitis and take powerful antibiotics for months at a time to no avail.

Other patients suffer one or two bouts of mild diarrhoea.

In patients whose immune systems are not strong enough to fight off a C diff infection, the currently prescribed method of dispensing increasingly strong doses of antibiotics only kills the superbug temporarily.

The human intestine hosts a multitude of bacterial species which combine to fight invasive foreign infections.

While the treatment has saved lives, some doctors are sceptical.

However, there is no proof that the method has a scientific basis.

Lawrence Schiller, a gastroenterologist with the Baylor Health Care system in Dallas, Texas, said he believed faecal transplantation, also called bacteriotherapy, might work, but that it needed to be tested scientifically before everybody started using and requesting it.

Alexander Khoruts of the University of Minnesota, who has performed about two dozen operations with good results, said that people who needed the treatment were the ones who were stuck in a cycle of treatment and retreatment.

Christina Surawicz, a doctor at the University of Washington's Harborview Medical Centre who has performed 16 such procedures, said there came times when doctors had no other choice.

Ruth, a New York woman who received the treatment, said that her struggle with C-diff infections had made her feel like a leper, and that she had not taken any more antibiotics since receiving the treatment.

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