I haven’t spoken about poo in a while, have I? So, here’s a new use for poo…
WHAT? you say – there is only one use for poo and that’s to go down a toilet. WRONG!
Faecal Microbiota transplantation has been viewed by many doctors as the crack-pot end of medicine but a recent study has suggested it might have a use.
What I’m talking about is a healthy person, with no nasty infections, donating their poo to have it mushed up with saline and then inserted via a tube into the intestine of the recipient. The idea is that medications like antibiotics kill off the natural bacteria in our bowels and that the usual probiotics containing lactobacillus may not replace the full range of natural organisms we need for health.
To explain the process simply, stool is put in a blender with saline (salt water), and poured into a syringe. The sick patient is then given the freshly homogenised human stool via a colonoscopy, which is done through the rectum.
The transplants are currently used to treat gut bacterial conditions such as colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Clostridium difficile, or C. diff – an infection which causes diarrhoea so severe that it kills thousands of people every year.
Tests are also being done in Europe to look at what else FMT can be used for – it is thought to be effective in treating metabolic issues, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and neurological conditions including Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinsons.
“Contrary to popular belief, stool has no waste in it – it’s a mass of good bacteria,” says Professor Borody, director of the Centre for Digestive Diseases , who does one to six transplants a week in his Five Dock clinic.
“The incoming bacteria are capable of killing bad bacteria and recolonising your gut, restoring your body’s balance and leading to a resolution of your symptoms.”
While it might sound gross, the results speak for themselves. Prof Borody has had people flying in from as far afield as Paris to undergo stool transplants in his surgery.
Many of his patients are C. diff sufferers who have been plagued with recurrent diarrhoea for years, but are cured within days.
So if FMT is so successful, why isn’t it more widely available?
“Some people just can’t get past the ick factor,” says Prof Borody. “It’s similar to any new theory or practice when it’s introduced – is very hard to get old dogs to learn new tricks. Little interest has been shown within the pharmaceutical industry. Young doctors are very much on board with FMT, it’s the old farts who are holding us back.”
Some enterprising individuals have taken up doing the job of doing it on their own by recruiting stool from their spouse or family. Some have had surprisingly good results as far as combating Crohn’s or Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms (but all the links I found in regards to this had been deleted – so, perhaps you might not want to try this one alone.)