Introducing synthetic poop to fight deadly infection

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Synthetic excrement can cure this deadly bacteria, C. difficile.
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Researchers have used feces (poop) to cure difficult to treat infections from C. difficile. The treatment, though unsavory, was found to help stop the devastating damage from the bacterium. Fecal transplants are done by way of enema or nasogastric tube. Now researchers introduce us to synthetic excrement called “RePOOPulate”.

Clostridium difficile can be spread hand to mouth, but it can also develop from taking powerful antibiotics that destroy bacteria in the gut that keep the intestines healthy. The result can be severe diarrhea with complications. Some cases can lead to the need for surgery to remove inflamed and damaged intestines.

Scientists at the University of Guelph are excited about the finding. What they've done is develop a "super-probiotic". The catchy name “RePOOPulate” explains how it works to repopulate healthy bacteria in the gut.

The probiotic was formulated by Guelph microbiologist Emma Allen-Vercoe and several other researchers to replace fecal transplant for treating the infection.
Researchers have used feces (poop) to cure difficult to treat infections from C. difficile. The treatment, though unsavory, was found to help stop the devastating damage from the bacterium. Fecal transplants are done by way of enema or nasogastric tube. Now researchers introduce us to synthetic excrement called “RePOOPulate”.

The impetus for the new product stems from lack of acceptance of ‘traditional’ fecal transplant that uses genuine feces; usually from a family member.

Putting feces down a nasogastric tube or introducing a family member’s poop into the intestines with an enema isn't well accepted by patients. Feces can also contain harmful bacteria, Allen-Vercoe points out, because you can’t really control or know what’s in it.

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The synthetic feces worked well for 2 patients with chronic C. difficile who failed to improve with traditional antibiotics.

One major difference between “RePOOPulate” and probiotics is that the effect persisted longer. Probiotics colonize healthy bacteria in the gut, but transiently.

The researchers hope the product will catch on to treat other disorders of the gut such as obesity, autism and inflammatory bowel disease because it can promote a healthy gastrointestinal ecosystem.

It took just 3 days for the patients given the probiotic to recover. Six months later there was still no sign of Clostridium difficile in the intestine.

The study authors say the synthetic poop is a lot less ‘icky’ than the real thing. The scientists used purified intestinal bacterial cultures grown in "Robo-gut" simulated intestine in their lab to bring us the new treatment.

Source:
University of Guelph
January 8, 2013

Image credit: Wikimedia commons

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