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

    Leaving Scalia Replacement to 2017 Would Mean Unusually Long Vacancy

    History of high court shows Obama not in unique situation during final year of presidency

    US Fact Checkers Debunk Some Republican Presidential Candidate Claims 

    Slim evidence for several claims made by Republican presidential candidates at their last debate ahead of next Saturday's key nominating election in South Carolina

    Uganda Presidential Debate a Small Victory for Democracy

    In homes and bars across country, Ugandans were fixated on their screens as eight political candidates running for president took part in national debate

    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.
    New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Ugandai
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    February 12, 2016 9:29 PM
    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video Refugees in Kenya Vie to Compete in Rio Olympics

    In Kenya, refugees from other African nations are training at a special camp and competing for a limited number of slots in this year's Rio Olympics under the flag of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Ngong, this is a first in Olympic history.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.