Fecal Pill Treats Gut Infection

In a preliminary study, patients with recurring Clostridium difficile infections found relief from diarrhea by ingesting frozen fecal matter from healthy volunteers.

Oct 11, 2014
Bob Grant

Clostridium difficile sporesWIKIMEDIA, CJC2NDA handful of patients suffering from recurrent Clostridium difficile infections (CDI) experienced a cessation of the violent diarrhea that is a hallmark of the disease after ingesting frozen, encapsulated feces from healthy, unrelated volunteers. The results of the preliminary study to test the efficacy of the new twist on fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) were published today (October 11) in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

“If reproduced in future studies . . . these results may help make FMT accessible to a wider population of patients, in addition to potentially making the procedure safer,” the authors of the JAMA paper wrote. “The use of capsules obviates the need for invasive procedures for administration, further increasing the safety of FMT . . . and significantly reducing cost.”

CDIs are downright nasty to the human gut. They cause extreme diarrhea, abdominal pain, and, if left unchecked, death. The infections kill about 14,000 people in the U.S. alone every year. Such an insidious malady is apt to drive patients to drastic treatment measures. Direct fecal transplants, which transfer gut microbiota from healthy donors, have shown great promise in treating CDI’s, and last year researchers saw similar successes with the oral administration of beneficial gut microbes extracted from fecal samples donated by health volunteers (typically family members).  

In the new study, conducted by Ilan Youngster of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and colleagues, the new treatment—which uses frozen fecal matter rather than gelatin coated microbial extracts—cleared up diarrhea in 18 out of 20 CDI patients, and the benefits persisted for up to 8 weeks after administration.