Lifestyle & Belief

Fecal transplants can save lives....really


A new study found that the human body carries thousands of strains of bacteria, germs.


Abid Katib

Fecal transplants can save lives? Wait, I just read "facial," right?

No, really. Your eyes do not deceive you. Fecal transplants can help save the lives of people afflicted with deadly bacterial infections, helping repopulate the colon with healthy bacteria, according to CNN. 

CNN told the story of car-crash victim 20-year-old Kaitlin Hunter, who contracted a nasty bacterial infection from her injuries, was in serious stomach pain. It turned out she had contracted clostridium difficile or C.Diff, a particularly horrible type of bacteria that can cause fatal infections.

When antibiotics didn't work, Hunter's doctors proposed a novel procedure: a fecal transplant from Hunter's mother to herself, says CNN.

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Why exactly would a self-respecting doctor do something seemingly so vastly unhygienic? It's a matter of good bacteria vs bad bacteria.

The bacterial infection of C.Diff had destroyed the beneficial bacteria in Hunter's colon, which meant she was in need of a transplant.

Hunter's mother donated a sample, which was diluted in water and then pumped back into Hunter's colon. 

Sounds gross, and...yes. Yes, it is. But it worked. Hunter is alive and well. 

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C.Diff is extremely bad news, killing around 14,000 people a year in the USA alone, according to the CDC. What's worse, recent studies indicate that C.Diff infections are in the rise in the USA, possibly due to increasingly drug-resistant strains of the bacteria. 

Fecal transplants are not the most anesthetically pleasing treatment ever devised, but it looks like they can be quite effective in fighting the nastiest cases of antibiotic-resistant C.Diff, according to a number of recent clinical studies. 

C.Diff is also the most common bacterial infection in hospitals, often occurring in dangerous outbreaks—yet more compelling reasons to avoid hospitals as much as humanly possible. 

Why is it better if fecal...donations...come from family members? Slate reports that it's because people you live in close quarters with tend to be exposed to the same bacteria you need to survive. Touching, really. 

If you're particularly interested in this procedure—or the charitable type—you can enroll in a fecal transplant clinical study here, based in Toronto.