Poop is more therapeutic than antibiotic

In a recent study appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine it was shown that in some cases swallowing some poop can actually do you more good than taking a powerful antibiotic.

Els van Nood and colleagues were studying patients suffering gut infections caused by a nasty bacteria, Clostridium difficile. These bacteria release toxins that can cause severe abdominal pain, intestinal inflammation, bloating and diarrhea. They produce spores that are fairly widespread. Indeed many people catch the bug while in the hospital (how convenient!), resulting in an estimated 14 thousand deaths per year in the US (http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21565586-bacterial-medicine-starting-emerge-bugs-system).

Unfortunately, about 20 percent of people treated with powerful antibiotics respond poorly, suffering recurrent infections. So, someone came up with a brilliant idea. What if we treat them with poop instead of antibiotic??

At first glance this might not seem so smart. After all, they are already infected, and isn’t poop full of germs? How could that make them better?

Well, it can.

In fact our intestines are indeed normally full of bacteria. In fact they are so small and numerous that, in the end, our bodies actually have more bacterial cells in them than human cells. But these bacteria normally do no harm. Not all bacteria are bad. And the good bacteria in the gut actually compete with the bad ones, keeping down their population. So a proper intestinal flora mix, with a strong population of good bacteria is actually important for health.

It turns out that sometimes people with intestinal infections actually just need a good stool transplant. Perhaps their good bacteria have been killed off by a previous treatment with antibiotics, or such, leaving the bad guys free to ravage the gut unchallenged.

So in this study it was shown that stool infusion into the intestine, (probably better than drinking it), from a healthy donor, was actually far superior in treating patients than antibiotics. Indeed the results were so dramatic that they ethically had to stop the study midway. The control patients that had been receiving antibiotics were given stools instead, so they would have a better chance of recovery.

I’m wondering if those of us with especially good poop will now be able to patent it, turn it into pills, and make a fortune. Sounds like easy money to me.