"fecal transplant"

Fecal transplant blamed in death

Fecal transplants are the hottest thing in emergent medicine, restoring balance to guts nuked by antibiotics and resistant infections, but there are risks. DIY is not the way to go...

Two patients contracted severe infections, and one of them died, from fecal transplants that contained drug-resistant bacteria, the Food and Drug Administration reported on Thursday. As a result, the agency is halting a number of clinical trials until the researchers conducting them can demonstrate that they have procedures in place to screen donated stool for dangerous organisms, said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the agency’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. In an interview, he did not specify how many trials would be suspended, but said it was “not just a few.”

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Placing other people's poop in your person is a piss-poor plan

I can't believe I have to write this, but maybe jamming other people's shit up your ass isn't a great idea.

When done by medical professions, under very specific circumstances, a fecal transplant can mean the difference between life and death: implanting feces containing healthy gut microbiome into a patient's body has been used by doctors as a way to help fight antibiotic-resistant super bugs, like Clostridium difficile.  A lot of folks online have been blathering away about how research shows that the same sort of treatment could also act as a cure for obesity. As reported by The Guardian, on hearing this news, people are now shoveling other people's crap into their bodies without a doctor's supervision.

What's the problem, you say? Well, before the treatment is administered in a clinical setting, the fecal matter used is screened for disease and other nasties in an effort to make the transplant as safe as possible. Without proper screening, the risk of transferring diseases like Hepititus or HIV from one poo owner to another is pretty high. Additionally, a DIY fecal transplant conducted in the name of losing weight could have the opposite effect. A case study from a few years back illustrated that a woman who underwent a fecal transplant to deal with a drug resistant super bug ended up becoming obese as a result. Oops.

So, if you're feel that you could stand to lose a few pounds, take a look at your eating habits, exercise more or visit a doctor for help in losing weight before reaching for a bag of liquefied shit. Read the rest

Poop doping could be the latest performance enhancement craze

Evidently you can be full of the wrong shit. A cyclist, by testing her friends fecal output, determined she needed better critters up in herself to improve her pedal pushing. So she did.

The madwoman behind “poop doping” is Lauren Petersen, a postdoctoral microbiologist at the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine. Petersen has been racing bikes all her life, but as she told The Scientist earlier this month, she’s struggled with chronic Lyme disease since her teen years. She finally rid herself of the disease in 2013, but the intense course of antibiotics she took had ravaged her system and left her with chronic fatigue and stomach problems.

Eventually, she learned that her microbiome (the colony of microbes in her body) was dangerously unbalanced and was not functioning as it should. She was not breaking down any food, and she learned that she was not eligible for a potentially beneficial fecal transplant. So she simply did one herself. As she said, it was a fairly dangerous DIY procedure and it wasn’t fun, but it worked better than she thought it could:

In February 2014, with the support of her family, she recruited a donor and did it herself. “I just did it at home. It’s not fun, but it’s pretty basic. It costs like six bucks to do.” (The $6 being for the drugstore enema kit.)

The do-it-yourself solution worked. “Within two months I was a new person,” Petersen says. “I had no more fatigue. I could ride my bike hard three days in a row, no problem.”

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Hacking your microbiome with DIY fecal transplants

Biohacker Josiah Zayner suffered from persistent digestive problems so he decided to undertake an extreme self-experiment: He isolated himself in a hotel room, took massive doses of antibiotics, and then gave himself a fecal transplant to transform his own microbiome. Mark Frauenfelder and I interviewed Josiah about biohacking, cheap genetic engineering kits, and, of course, his own full body microbiome transplant in this episode of For Future Reference, a new podcast from Institute for the Future:

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Your microbial nation: how bacteria went from menace to superfood

British science writer Ed Yong's new book I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life is a history of gut flora and bacteria, which first entered our consciousness as a scourge to be eliminated and has lately become something between a cure-all (see the universe of "probiotic" food supplements) and a superfood (think of the fecal transplants that have shown such promise in treating a variety of debilitating and dangerous health conditions). Read the rest

Fecal transplants work in puppies too

Fecal transplants cured 93% of diarrhea cases in a pioneering study, reports Ars Technica's Beth Mole.

By digging into the data on fecal transplants—which are highly effective at treating dogged gut infections, such as Clostridium difficile, in humans—Conrad realized that treatment didn’t have to be that rough. Such transplants generally work by using poop, laden with a helpful community of microbes, to restore disorderly microbial communities in the gut and elbow out harmful germs.

In Conrad’s procedure, veterinarians simply take stool from healthy dogs, screen it, liquefy it, and then inject it into a sick dog’s intestines with a feeding tube inserted in their rear. The screening process Conrad uses is simple, mostly culturing some of the microbes in lab to check for certain types of bacteria.

Within 12 to 24 hours, the puppies’ symptoms start clearing up, Conrad said. He’s now using the method to treat adults and pregnant dogs

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Turd transplant leads to rapid weight-gain and obesity

A woman whose c.difficile infection was treated with a fecal transplant from her overweight daughter experienced rapid and dramatic weight gain as soon as her daughter's microbial nation took hold in her gut. Read the rest

It came from the faucet

There's something nasty in the water, but Maggie Koerth-Baker has you covered.

HOWTO synthesize poop for turd-transplants with a robotgut

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. Read the rest

Poop donator explains the human side of fecal transplants

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

Everybody poops — even the FDA

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

DIY turd-transplants

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

FDA clenches down on fecal transplants

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

Poop transplants meet FDA bureaucracy

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

Scientists tell Gawker, "It's probably okay to eat your own poop"

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

The problem with fecal transplants

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.

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 ...

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