There's something nasty in the water, but Maggie Koerth-Baker has you covered.
University of Guelph researcher Emma Allen-Vercoe and her team have devised a method for creating artificial poop for use in fecal transplants, a promising therapy for people whose intestinal flora have been damaged by illness, antibiotics, or other therapies. The recipe involves a combination of indigestible cellulose and a starter culture of fecal bacteria. These are mixed in an airtight chamber and passed through a "robogut" -- a mechanical analog of the human digestive system that produces the finished turd.
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Marie Myung-Ok-Lee in the New York Times:
"I delivered my first donation, in Tupperware, and Gene took it into the privacy of his bathroom. I stayed, just in case I was needed, and after about half an hour, he came out and told me, with a look of wonder, that he was feeling better already. Already? We checked with Dr. Shepard, who told us that, indeed, one can feel the effects that quickly.
" Read the rest
At Scientific American, Beth Mole has a longer story about the FDA's recent decision to exert more control over the use of fecal transplants
— procedures that attempt to cure disorders related to gut bacteria by, essentially, giving you somebody else's gut bacteria. We already talked briefly about this decision, which has some benefits and some detriments
. This new piece gets more in-depth. Read the rest
Despite regulatory headaches
, a growing community of people with Crohn's, ulcerative colitis and other IBDs, as well as those with C. difficile
, are turning to fecal transplants, often resorting to DIY poop-enemas
. Read the rest
An effective cure for a brutal bacterial infection
is gaining popularity, but there is a price to recognition: the FDA is clamping down on the procedure
while researching it as an "investigational new drug." Now that doctors have to do a mountain of paperwork, will it result in a black market for backstreet blendastools? Read the rest
The good news: Fecal transplants work well enough as a treatment for patients with Clostridium difficile
infections that the Food and Drug Administration has decided to take them out of the grey area of legality in which they were previously being performed
. Poop transplants for C. difficile
will be legal, and the doctors doing the transplants will have to be approved by the FDA, to make sure they're getting the donor poop through safe means and not prescribing poop transplants for things that poop transplants don't help. The bad news: The approval process turns out to be ridiculously arcane and time-consuming — featuring a 30-day waiting period and requirements that are apparently secret. Read the rest
They aren't saying you should
do it. There's really no reason to. (Even fecal transplants are done in a much less disgusting manner.) But if, for whatever reason, you were to ingest your own poop, you probably won't get sick and die from it
. Somebody else's poop, on the other hand, is more risky. So, glad we got that cleared up. Read the rest
Over the past few years, we've linked to a couple of stories about fecal transplants—a real medical procedure where doctors take a donor stool sample, dilute it, and inject it into the colon of a patient. It sounds gross. But it appears to be incredibly effective at treating certain intestinal issues.
Basically, the fecal transplant is really a bacteria transplant. A fresh set of healthy bacteria can fix problems that aren't reliably treatable any other way. On the other hand, most of this information comes from anecdotal evidence. Fecal transplants haven't gone through any large-scale, randomized clinical trials. Until that happens, most doctors won't offer the procedure and insurance won't cover it. That makes sense. We rely on clinical trials to separate treatments that work from treatments that just appear to work. The problem with fecal transplant, though, is that it doesn't fit into any of the bureaucratic categories necessary to get a trial like that approved.
Over on Scientific American, Maryn McKenna has a great feature about fecal transplants—their promise, what we don't know about them, and what's keeping them from becoming a mainstream treatment.
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Marion Browning of North Providence, R.I., was at her wit’s end. The 79-year-old retired nurse had suffered from chronic diarrhea for almost a year. It began after doctors prescribed antibiotics to treat her diverticulitis, a painful infection of small pouches in the wall of the colon. The regimen also killed friendly bacteria that lived in Browning’s intestines, allowing a toxin-producing organism known as Clostridium difficile to take over and begin eating away at the entire lining of her gut ...