News / Science & Technology

Fecal Transplants Used to Cure Intestinal Disorders

Fecal Transplants Used to Cure Intestinal Disordersi
X
August 05, 2013 8:15 PM
Medical doctors fight many infections with antibiotics, but a procedure that makes many people cringe can be more effective in curing serious infections. The process involves rebalancing a sick intestine with fecal microbes from a healthy donor. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Shelley Schlender
Medical doctors fight many infections with antibiotics, but a procedure that makes many people cringe can be more effective in curing serious infections.

The process involves rebalancing a sick intestine with fecal microbes from a healthy donor.  

Donor animals

In the United States, this unusual treatment was first inspired by animal doctors.

At Colorado State University in Fort Collins, veterinarians use donor animals to cure digestive disorders in other animals, not with a kidney donation or a blood transfusion, but with healthy gut microbes. One donor is a black-and-white cow named Hershey.

“We probably bring her in twice a week to provide rumen fluid for treating our patients," said Rob Callan, who harvests microbes from Hershey’s stomach on a regular basis. "She’s been here eight years. That’s got to be close to at least 800 patients.”

He gathers the microbes directly from her stomach through a small plastic porthole in her side.  

“We often get asked whether or not it hurts," said Callan. "After it’s in and it’s healed, they don’t feel it any differently than normal skin.”  

As Hershey calmly watches, Callan opens the porthole to reveal what’s left of her latest meal - a mass of warm, wet, stinky grass. He says its potent odor comes from microbes digesting the grass. These microbes can counteract the toxins of harmful gut microbes, so to gather a “donation,” Callan and his team insert a tube through the porthole and siphon out the greenish liquid.

Hershey the cow's open porthole reveals what’s left of her latest meal, a mass of warm, wet grass in the process of being digested by microbes. (Shelley Schlender for VOA)Hershey the cow's open porthole reveals what’s left of her latest meal, a mass of warm, wet grass in the process of being digested by microbes. (Shelley Schlender for VOA)
Animal doctor Jenifer Gold says it can then be transfused into another cow through a tube down its throat.  

“You’re taking the tube and going down into the stomach, and from the stomach it will get passed down to the GI tract," Gold said.

There are also beneficial microbes at the other end of the GI - or gastro intestinal - tract.

“If you have a horse that has very bad diarrhea, you actually get a healthy horse’s feces," Gold said. "You turn it into a mush so you can pump it through.”

Fecal transplants for humans

For generations, veterinarians have used stool from healthy animals to treat a variety of intestinal disorders in livestock. Half a century ago, their success inspired a Denver doctor to try the procedure to help people.

“That was 1958. That’s when the first published experience with fecal transplants was done,” said Steve Freeman, a gastroenterologist at the University of Colorado Medical School.

Dr. Ben Eisman “transplanted” normal human feces into four men who had a deadly intestinal infection in the 1950s. “All four survived and left the hospital actually fairly quickly. Even though they’d been in the intensive care unit and not too far from dying just days earlier. So it was pretty dramatic.”

However, the procedure did not catch on, probably because of what Freeman calls the “yuck” factor.

"The yuck factor has always been a very big drawback to this therapy,” he said.

Overcoming the 'yuck' factor

Two years ago, Freeman overcame the yuck factor to cure a digestive disorder that infects hundreds of thousands in the United States and is increasing worldwide. It kills 14,000 Americans every year. The infection is C. diff colitis.

Charmayne Cesal lives in Wyoming, where her doctors tried to kill off her C. diff with a powerful antibiotic called Vancomycin. Cesal says whenever her prescription ended, her C. diff roared back.

Thinking a fecal transplant might be more effective, her doctors referred her to Freeman. He consulted the handful of doctors in the U.S. who use stool transplants to introduce healthy microbes into their patients’ intestinal tracks.

Some infuse liquefied stool into the stomach through a nose tube. Others use enemas, or a colonoscopy, a medical procedure where a tube is inserted into the colon. Freeman opted for a colonoscopy for Cesal and then went looking for an appropriate donor.

“They’re screened with cultures of their stool to look for C. diff and other enteric pathogens and parasites," Freeman said. "They’re screened with blood tests to be checked for infectious diseases such as hepatitis, HIV, and syphilis.”

Fecal transplant patient

Cesal’s donor was her husband and she became Denver’s first modern-day fecal transplant patient.

“I’ve not had any problems since," Cesal said. "Such a simple thing to get rid of something so horrible.”

Freeman has now done more than two dozen fecal transplants. He says studies from Europe match his own observations that they work better than antibiotics.

“The transplants tend to be successful anywhere from 85 percent to 90 percent of the time," he said. "Whereas once a person has relapsed on Vancomycin two times or more, the likelihood tends to be less than 50 percent.”

Yet fecal transplant is such an unusual procedure that earlier this year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) instituted stringent restrictions on doctors who wanted to do them. With the growing number of successful procedures, the FDA relaxed its requirements in July, though they urge more studies of the therapy.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Michael K Hurst
August 07, 2013 12:18 PM
Fecal transplants are definitely very effective. While they are currently getting the most attention for treating infections with Clostridium Difficile bacteria there use for other diseases including chronic Gastrointestinal Disease like Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease.
Two years ago I was facing surgery for Ulcerative Colitis after every other treatment that had been attempted during 12 years of illness had failed to keep it in remission. Three days before surgery I read an article in the Journal of Gastroenterology by Dr. Borody which documented 6 cases of Ulcerative Colitis which had been successfully treated using fecal transplants. So I tried it myself and it worked.

Now two years later I am still completely free of symptoms WITHOUT having to take any medications or stick to highly restrictive diets. I consider myself to be cured. For more information about my experience and how to do it yourself to save your colon or even your life go to http://www.FecalTransplant.org


by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
August 05, 2013 11:13 PM
It is a good idea, fecal transplant. I suppose there may be not a few things to learn how to treat human diseases from veterinanians because subjects are all vertebrates. Microbes in healthy mammals stomach would not have ability to kill pathogenic microbes. But they could help cure bacterial diseases by interrupting a vicious circle of proliferating pathogens with the decreased number of norma frola. Yet, actually yuck factor remains in spite of several arrangements of administration?!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs