Fecal Transplant is just two words. However, the term ignites discomposure and distress among readers or listeners. By definition, it means the process of implanting fecal matter from a healthy person into a sick person’s colon. This is typically accomplished through a colonoscopy. (Putting this politely is a challenge.)
Doctors at Digestive Disease Consultants, Orlando, have witnessed horrified “Ew!” reactions among many patients. And we might add families of patients. You might register disbelief or shock. But, we now introduce you to a medical hero of very humble origin: the bacteria that inhabit the human gut and makes up a great deal of the dry material of the feces excreted by a human being.
The complete name of the process is “Fecal Microbiota Transplant” or FMT. Most people are aware that the gut is teaming with friendly flora, the microbiota. Likewise, we know that our friendly bacteria protect us and even aid our digestion.
However, Fecal Microbiota Transplant MT might not be main-stream knowledge in all parts of the US, even though Huffington Post has covered this procedure. (Likewise, we have “poo” emogies with that look like ice cream.)
No, Fecal Transplants certainly are not polite dinner conversation. The process is actually happening in FMT is that well-processed feces from screened donors is transplanted. The feces is taken from a person with healthy gut bacteria. It is then implanted into a person with a severe digestive problem such as Clostridium Difficile.
Fecal Transplant: A Non-Technological Tale of Taboo
Let’s look at a little historical data behind this disturbing treatment. We want you to know this is not a new idea.
We take you to China, 1700 years ago. An ancient Chinese scientist in the fourth century is treating diarrhea patients. His name was Ge Hong. He named his treatment Yellow Soup. This scientist might have had the right idea. He was basically trying to find a way to get healthy stuff into sick people. “However, The “soup” was administered orally. This possibly accounts for the failure of the technique to become widely known.” That’s right. We believe people figured out his recipe. And they simply could not stomach his Yellow Soup Cure. In fact, considering the connotations of feces and filth, perhaps Ge Hong was fortunate he was not burned at the stake.
History ignores the entire idea until 1958. At that time, Eiseman and his team reported success with fecal implantation. This was accomplished through the use of retention enemas.
Again, the patients were afflicted with severe diarrhea. Only this time, the causes were the new antibiotics of the fabulous mid 20th century. To the delight of Eiseman and his fellow scientists, recovery was prompt and permanent with the use of the healthy fecal matter.
A Fecal Fast-Forward In Time
Now we fast-forward twenty years to 1978. After decades of antibiotic use, a condition termed Clostridium Difficile was discovered. Doctors rediscovered the efficacy of this simple fecal treatment. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the patients with Clostridium Difficile struggle “with longstanding diarrhea and abdominal pain. They can’t go to work or school. They can’t or function well because of how sick they are.” Ironically, the cause is often rooted in antibiotics. The antibiotics have killed the good bacteria in the gut. This allowed the clostridium to take over. Yet, in spite of their grim prognosis, 95 percent of the patients treated with Fecal Transplants benefit from the healthy donor’s good bacteria. They not only improved, they were cured.
Fecal Facts for You To Know
1. Today Fecal Transplants have evolved. According to gastroenterologists at Johns Hopkins, “When antibiotics kill off too many “good” bacteria in the digestive tract, fecal transplants can help replenish bacterial balance.”
2. Fecal Transplants are more common today. And they are providing a life-saving option for patients with recurrent Clostridium Difficile infections. Did you know that today there are stool banks where owners leave fecal donations? These donations are processed, diluted with saline and quick frozen. Yes, just like chocolate milkshakes. Likewise, some doctors encourage patients to bring their choice of donors into the clinic to be screened.
3. Are you aware that scientists and doctors are demanding more studies on this disease? Additional knowledge is needed to keep ahead of the rising problems with Clostridium Difficile? As of July of 2017, researchers reported, “Intestinal infection with the bacterium Clostridium difficile is the most frequent healthcare-linked infection in the United States.”
4. You will be surprised to know “each year it afflicts about half a million Americans, causes tens of thousands of deaths, and costs the nation’s healthcare system an estimated $5 billion.”
5. Matters are becoming more alarming. “Now researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have found evidence that the most difficult C. difficile cases, known as multiple recurring C. difficile infections (mrCDI), are rapidly becoming more common.
For patients with multiple recurring C. difficile infections, the Fecal Microbiota Implant might mean they can return to a normal work schedule, attend social events, go grocery shopping or spend time playing with the grandchildren. After successfully recovering from Clostridium Difficile infections, patients are much too happy and healthy to worry about the “Ew” factor.