Saturday, June 21, 2008

Medical Breakthrough: Stool Transplants

WARNING: this post contains information that is NOT for the weak of stomach!

Yesterday I attended a physician's seminar about Clostridium difficile, a bacterial species that causes very severe stomach cramps and diarrhea (a disorder called colitis). The disorder occurs mostly in elderly people and is commonly acquired after a long hospitalization.

Here is what C. diff looks like (a) under a microscope and (b) growing on a culture plate:






Okay, so usually the infection is treated with antibiotics and this is pretty effective. However, some antibiotic-resistant strains are starting to develop. For these, doctors often administer yogurt drinks that contain a lot of healthy bacteria. But this doesn't usually cure the patient completely. There is, however, one other method of treatment that has a 100% success rate since it was put into effect last year - A stool transplant!! I had no idea what that was until they explained it. You see, these doctors look at our waste products as organs and so here is what happens: doctors take a stool sample from a healthy donor, blend it up with some water or saline to form a "smoothie" and introduce into the patient's digestive system through a nasogastric tube. Here is the explanation again in layman's terms: the patient drinks somebody else's poop!

The idea of it makes complete sense: replace the bad bacteria that's causing disease with good bacteria so that the bad stuff can't survive. Even so, I'm not sure I could do it if I were the patient. But the FDA is working on a way to form capsules that can be swallowed instead of the liquid drink, which sounds a bit more bearable. So, my next money-making scheme? Sell my waste products to be made into pills! How is that any different than donating blood or selling plasma....
And if you are still reading...






4 comments:

Bevo said...

That's awesome Jenny.

Julie Anna Poole said...

Jenny, in case you're wondering why my cat just left a comment on your blog, it's because he forgot to sign out and I didn't notice. That comment is really from me.

Stacey Gray said...

Hey Jenny,
I appreciate you sharing that. Since I haven't worked in microbiology for 3 years I feel like I have lost touch and don't get to hear about a lot of the neat stuff that is happening out there. It was a very interesting read.

jen said...

Are you serious? Seriously.