An American study has discovered that the potentially deadly hospital infection, Clostridium difficile (C difficile) can be treat by using capsules of frozen faeces from healthy people.
The bug can be extremely difficult to treat and is deadly, particularly in the elderly. US researchers were able to cure 18 out of 20 patients of diarrhoea and were able to improve their condition.
Previously, ‘stool transplants’ from health patients have been proven to restore normal balance, but it required invasive procedures to complete.
Doctors based at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, were able to freeze healthy stool samples and enclose them in capsules for easy swallowing. These findings could be important due to the difficulty of combating the condition with antibiotics, which often results in failed treatment.
The condition is harmless in healthy people, but some of the antibiotics prescribed for it upset the natural bacteria balance in the stomach, which normally protects against infection. This leads to the multiplication of C difficile and the production of toxins, which cause diarrhoea and could result in swelling of the bowel.
The condition is most common in hospital patients who are undergoing antibiotic treatment courses. The bacteria are present in faeces and are able to survive on surfaces and objects for weeks.
An increase in the number of C difficile cases, along with another hospital infection, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), has forced the NHS to implement strict new infection control measures. This has resulted in a significant decline in the number of C difficile cases nationally, since the introduction of the new monitoring system during 2007. From April 2013 to March 2014, there were 13361 cases in England, compared to 52988 during 2007.
The participants in the study were cured of diarrhoea and reported compelling overall improvements to their health. The patients were asked to rate their condition on a scale from one to 10. They reported an average improvement of five prior to treatment, and eight after being given the capsules.
Image Credit: Espen Presthus