Illustration for article titled Popping Frozen Poop Pills Can Stave Off Dangerous Bacterial Infections

Fecal transplants are an effective way to combat C. difficile infections, but they're typically delivered by enema or a tube down the digestive system. Not pleasant. But thankfully, scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital have now made the healing powers of poop available in pill form.


Fecal transplants work by revitalizing healthy intestinal microbial activity. Essentially, by introducing uncontaminated microbes from a donated stool sample (typically from another family member), doctors have shown that a healthy intestinal microbiome can be re-established. Trouble is, the delivery mechanism leaves much to be desired.

Typically, fecal transplants are done by snaking a tube down the nose and into the stomach. But getting the tube down is not easy, and there's always the chance that the patient will gag and vomit, increasing the risk of inhaling the fecal matter.


Which got researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital wondering if a poop pill could serve as a viable alternative. Karl Engelking from Discover Magazine reports:

The pills...start with stool from healthy donors in a saline solution. The contents are filtered to extract helpful bacteria, and the cocktail is then piped into pill capsules and subsequently frozen. Patients pop the pills straight out of the freezer, where they can be stored for up to 250 days.

In a small and preliminary trial, the pills cured the diarrhea symptoms in 19 out of 20 people with mild to moderate C. difficile infections. Each patient popped 30 of the pills over a two-day period, and their bowel movements fell from a median of 5 per day to 1 per day eight weeks later. Fourteen of the 20 patients were cured after the first two-day treatment, and five others — sicker than the rest — were cured after a second two-day, 30-pill treatment.

Further, not a single participant showed adverse side effects due to the pills. Researchers published their findings Saturday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Now, the team from Boston isn't the first to put poop in pill form, but they are the first to test its efficacy.

Much more at Discover Magazine, New York Times, and NRP. Read the entire study at JAMA: "Oral, Capsulized, Frozen Fecal Microbiota Transplantation for Relapsing Clostridium difficile Infection".


Image: Hohmann Labs

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