Faecal transplants may soon help defeat superbug
A potentially deadly and virulent bug that attacks the gut may soon be treated with the most stomach-churning of remedies as researchers have found that transplanting human faeces into people with the superbug Clostridium difficile provides an almost universal cure for the condition - far outperforming traditional antibiotic treatment.
Faecal microbiota transplantation is thought to work by replacing the healthy bacteria in the gut that have been wiped out by antibiotics.
For the past 20 years an Australian, Thomas Borody, has pioneered the treatment, although its use has been traced back thousands of years, the Daily Mail reported.
The research found that nearly 94 percent of patients given the transplantation one or two times recovered as compared to only 30 percent of the group given the antibiotic vancomycin.
The study was then stopped early by an ethics committee on the ground that it would be unethical not to offer all patients the transplants.
Professor Borody said C. difficile, which has ravaged the US, killing 30,000 people each year, was spreading to Australia, although no one could be sure how common it was as health departments did not routinely test for it.
Just as people now donate blood and semen, in future donors may be called on to give stools.
At present the faeces is inserted into the recipient using colonoscopy or nasal tube but researchers are developing a less off-putting method.
The clinical associate dean at the St George Hospital clinical school at the University of NSW, Michael Grimm, said trying to find appropriate donors could be difficult.
He said the study also only followed patients for 10 weeks, so he would like to see more long-term data as he had patients who relapsed up to two years after being infected.
The study has been recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.