You can pooh-pooh it all you want, but let’s just get the ick factor out of the way.
A fecal microbiota transplant may sound gross, but the relatively new procedure is drastically improving lives and, in some instances, saving them.
The procedure takes the collected stool from a certified stool bank – just like a blood bank – and transplants it into the colon of a patient with recurrent Clostridium difficile, more commonly referred to as C. diff. The condition can cause diarrhea leading to life-threatening dehydration and electrolyte abnormalities.
Dr. Christopher Bach, a fellowship-trained gastroenterologist with Tidelands Health Gastroenterology, touts a near 100 percent success rate overcoming C. diff among patients who have undergone a fecal microbiota transplant. Dr. Bach has performed dozens of the transplants.
“It is pretty revolutionary,” Dr. Bach says. “I realize it’s disgusting for a lot of people to even think about, but this is how we are trying to stamp out disease and it’s a good way to do it with very little, if any, side effects and a huge improvement in quality of life.”
Dr. Bach explains that the transplant is repopulating the colon with bacteria.
“We actually normalize the patient’s colon with the flora that’s supposed to be there,” he says.
C. diff is typically a complication of antibiotic use. Although antibiotics are routinely used to treat infections, they can, on occasion, lead to problems. Antibiotics are used to fight bacteria, but, in the process, they can destroy “good” bacteria that lives inside a person’s gut.
Once an antibiotic treatment is complete, most people’s bodies can re-establish the proper balance of the gut’s trillions of bacterial cells. Some patients, however, are unable to do so, leaving them vulnerable to a C. diff infection, which can cause aggressive diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever.