A New Take on Clostridium difficile: “Poop Pills”

New Picture (6)

via the NIH Director’s Blog

Brittany Reichelt (11 AM Micro) is thinking outside the box with the treatment of Clostridium difficile infections. These infections are difficult to treat, in large part due to the fact that they can form endospores, and as a result are not easily eliminated by antibiotic treatment. This leads to many patients have long term gastrointestinal issues from the infection, and a generally unsatisfactory quality of life for the patients with these infections. Brittany found this summary via the National Institutes of Health news page (excellent choice!). FYI, the use of poop to treat C. difficile infections is not news to long time BIO230 fans–it is a topic near and dear to my heart (see here, here, or just search “poop” on the blog). Here is Brittany’s take and summary on this important topic:

The following summary is on an article from the National Institutes of Health on Clostridium difficile. We have heard about the genus Clostridium with infections, such as Clostridium botulinum and Clostridium tetani. Clostridium difficile has many of the same characteristics, such as endospore forming and is anaerobic. This bacterium C. difficile is most prevalent in people with prolonged use of antibiotics, since antibiotics kill the bad and good bacteria in the colon, it will be easier for C. difficile to make its home there. Normally for treatment, antibiotics are not effective in improving the symptoms. Instead, the recommended treatment is to transplant “microbe-rich stool samples from healthy people into the C. difficile patient to help improve the bacteria in their colon and improve their symptoms.”

In the study completed by National Institutes of Health funded researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital took a different approach. Rather than taking the poop of healthy individuals and transplanting it into the patients, they created a simple pill: “the poop pill, which is shown in the picture above.” Researchers completed this by first taking healthy poop samples, purifying them, and then concentrating the good bacteria it. The concentrated good bacteria was put into clear capsules and then froze, these poop pills were to be given to patients frozen. Researchers tested the effects of the poop pills on 20 patients who experienced “at least three C. difficile infections and did not respond to antibiotics normally used on this bacterium. Patients were given 30 pills over a period of two days. The results of this study showed in 2 days of treatment 14 out of 20 patients had a dramatic reduction in symptoms, such as frequent diarrhea went away. The resulting 8 patients were given a second round of treatment and 4 more patients had the same decrease in symptoms.

The results show that this may be a better alternative; it is much easier for a patient to take a pill then it is to transplant the poop from one human being to another human. Researchers say that someday, this treatment may even be beneficial for other gastrointestinal diseases.

(note added in proof by Singleton: this seems as good as an opportunity to bring out this old chestnut–any ideas why this graphic is completely relevant to Brittany’s story? First person to comment with the correct answer gets a free bonus point!)

"S#!t Sandwich"


About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on October 27, 2014, in Guest Post, You are what you eat. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Brittany Reichelt

    The review for “Shark Sandwich” was merely a two word review which simply read “Shit Sandwich”. – Marty DiBergi

  2. With working in a nursing home, C. diff tends to occur in waves at the facility. I have noticed the reoccurrences tend to happen in those who have previously had it. I find these pills to be a fascinating solution to reducing symptoms for patients with C. diff. This would be an easy way to reduce symptoms quickly. However, when reading about the pills, I found myself making a nasty face at the thought if I were to ever have to take such a thing. The idea of taking a pill of bacteria from someone else poop sounds awful!

  3. I found this article very interesting. C. diff is truly a huge problem in many nursing homes including the one I work in. One of the questions I always asked was are there any medicines we couls give them in order for the elderly to live longer in nursing home. I think this poop pill idea would seriously be quite useful. Any type of transplant is risky for people who have C. Diff since they are already sick. Most elderly take pills daily so adding another pill would be sigficantly easy.

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