Probably the grossest treatment for diarrhea ever

Clostridium difficile bacteria. Photo: Francisco Bengoa/Flickr

Clostridium difficile bacteria. Photo: Francisco Bengoa/Flickr

When you’re dealing with a dirty opponent, sometimes you’ve got to fight dirty.

Clostridium difficile, the bacteria that causes diarrhea, is definitely an opponent that hits below the belt, no pun intended. It’s becoming a major problem in hospitals, hitting patients left vulnerable and devoid of the good digestion-helping bacteria after antibiotic treatments. And since most people have had diarrhea at one point or another while not weakened by a hospital stay, we forget the more dangerous symptoms of the disease: severe dehydration, kidney failure, damage to the intestines and even death. It’s also passing up MRSA as one of the most infectious diseases in care centers.

That’s possibly because difficile is becoming more resistant to antibiotics, so doctors have to turn to alternative methods…very alternative methods. One such approach is the stool transplant. Yep, you have that right: Doctors take feces from a donor, typically a relative, and insert it into the patient’s intestines through a tube, either anally or orally. The probiotics from the healthy donor then promptly clean house and rid the patient of difficile.

The downside of this treatment is it’s unbelievably disgusting and sounds more like a prank than a healing method. Instead, doctors have begun synthesizing healthy poop. The “RePOOPulate,” as they call it, has all of the good bacteria and isn’t quite as foul as real feces, and you don’t have to feel awkward around whatever family member pooped for your own health. So far, the synthetic has proved effective, but it needs to be tested on a much bigger sample size to draw any complete results.

I guess the lesson here is just to be glad there are doctors out there that not only care about your health, but also appreciate that everyone has a gross-out limit.


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