Fecal transplantation (or bacteriotherapy) is the transfer of stool from a healthy donor into the gastrointestinal tract of another person for the purpose of treating recurrent Clostridium difficile colitis
and to restore the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut.
C. difficile colitis is a complication of antibiotics. Symptoms may include diarrhea, abdominal cramping and sometimes fever. In some cases, the transplants have worked quickly and saved the lives of patients who were wasting away with uncontrollable diarrhea.
In most cases, a doctor will deliver the donor feces to the recipient through a colonoscope. A colonoscope is a small, flexible tube that is inserted into the colon through the rectum.
A doctor will screen fecal transplant donors to ensure that their gut and feces are healthy. They will test them for various diseases, such as hepatitis. Fecal transplants are usually sterile and safe, and there is a growing body of research to support their use.
But recently an immuno-compromised patient who received a fecal transplant for an undisclosed reason has died following the procedure and another is seriously ill – prompting the US Food and Drug Administration to put a halt to a number of fecal transplant trials.
It is believed both patients received fecal transplants from the same donor. The donor stool had not been tested for the drug-resistant bacteria, Escherichia coli.
After they fell ill, the researchers conducting the trial tested the donor’s samples and found it contained the E. coli bacteria, which produces an antibiotic-resistant enzyme.
An undisclosed number of clinical trials have been stopped, until the researchers leading them prove they have screening procedures in place to ensure donated stool doesn’t contain dangerous organisms.