WEDNESDAY, Jan. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Here's a new twist on the old idea of not letting anything go to waste. According to a small new Dutch study, human stool -- which contains billions of useful bacteria -- can be donated from one person to another to cure a severe, common and recurrent bacterial infection.
People who have the infection, called Clostridium difficile (or C. difficile), experience long bouts of severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. For many, antibiotics are ineffective. To make matters worse, taking antibiotics for months and months wipes out a large percentage of bacteria that would normally be helpful in fighting the infection.
"Clostridium difficile only grows when normal bacteria are absent," explained study author Dr. Josbert Keller, a gastroenterologist at Hagaziekenhuis Hospital, in The Hague.
The stool from a donor, mixed with a salt solution called saline, can be instilled into the sick person's intestinal system, almost like parachuting a team of commandos into enemy territory. The healthy person's abundant and diverse gut bacteria go to work within days, wiping out the stubborn C. difficile that the antibiotics have failed to kill, according to the study.
"Everybody makes jokes about this, but for the patients it really makes a big difference," Keller said. "People are desperate."
The research, published Jan. 16 in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that the infusion of donor stool was significantly more effective in treating recurrent C. difficile infection than was vancomycin, an antibiotic. Of the 16 study participants, 13 (81 percent) of the patients had resolution of their infection after just one infusion of stool and two others were cured with a follow-up treatment.
The approach is not new, but this research is the first controlled trial ever d
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