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Feces Pills Wipe Out Painful C Diff Infections

Update Date: Oct 04, 2013 03:27 AM EDT

Ever thought your poop might be useful? Well, now it can be. Researchers have discovered a way to put healthy people's poop into pills that can cure gut infections.

In spite of sounding like a stomach-churning procedure, it is actually more sterile than it sounds. Canadian researchers extract the bacteria and package it in capsules. The treatment is a potential advance over conventional fecal transplants, which are done with an enema or nasal tube, said lead investigator Thomas Louie, MD, a professor of infectious diseases and microbiology at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.

"A bright light dawned on me," Dr. Louie said. "I would turn it into pills." He presented the study here at IDWeek 2013.

C. difficile -- C. diff for short -- is a debilitating bacterial infection of the intestinal tract that occurs when antibiotics wipe out health-promoting "good" bacteria. Once that happens, diarrhea-causing C. diff flourishes.

The test subjects each swallowed capsules containing fecal microbes from a family member.

Only one of the patients in the ongoing trial has had a recurrence, compared with an 80% rate in patients who have had multiple bouts of the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"That one patient, in June, had a recurrence after being treated with antibiotics for a separate infection," said Thomas Louie, a professor of medicine at the University of Calgary in Canada and lead author of the study. He presented it at a conference on infectious diseases in San Francisco on Thursday, according to USA Today.

"I think in some ways the 'ick' factor is something we got out of the schoolyard," Louie said. "It's really quite primordial, but we just need to get over it."

Doctors believe the pills hold great potential as more than half a million Americans get these infections each year.

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