Fecal Transplant Offers Hope for Gut Infection

We all know about organ transplants, but fecal transplants? The online magazine, Slate.com details how this strange and unappealing-sounding (to say the least) treatment may help those suffering from a colon and life-threatening bacterial infection and possibly even other diseases linked to the microbial inhabitants of the gut, including obesity.

Fecal transplants were developed by a gastroentrologist in the Bronx, to treat an intestinal infection called Clostridium difficile. This infection is initially treated with powerful antibiotics that can also wipe out the beneficial bacteria in our guts. This can have the unintentional consequence of giving C. diff an advantage, according to the magazine.

A fecal transplant, in which a stool from a relative or spouse is inserted into the colon of the patient, allows the beneficial bacteria to recolonize and compete with the harmful bacteria.

There's been no major clinical trial testing fecal transplants, but the procedure has been around at least as far back as 1958, according to Slate. The gut microbes been linked to other problems, including obesity, and advocates hope fecal transplants might offer a solution.

The mammalian colon contains one of the densest microbial communities found on Earth. And its composition varies, for instance, Japanese people have been found to have microbes specialized for digesting seaweed. Meanwhile, variation in gut viruses creates an individual fingerprint.

Live Science Staff
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