Frozen ‘poo in a pill’ could treat C. diff

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Capsules containing frozen faecal matter could help to treat C.difficile infections, according to new research.

Taking pills containing human poo may help treat symptoms including chronic diarrhoea. The C. difficile bacterium is normally present harmlessly in the gut. However, sometimes there can be an overgrowth in these bacteria, for example in people who have received courses of antibiotics, resulting in chronic, severe diarrhoea which can be life-threatening. 

The study was carried out on 20 people with recurrent diarrhoea caused by C. difficile that did not respond to standard antibiotics. Patients were given 30 capsules of frozen faecal matter containing gut bacteria from four healthy people. The researchers were testing whether these non-harmful gut bacteria would replace the illness-causing bacteria.

The diarrhoea was cured in 14 of the 20 people assessed over an eight-week period. No serious side effects were reported. The six patients who had not responded were then treated with the pills again, and this time four were cured of their diarrhoea. Overall 18 out of the 20 participants were cured by the poo-containing pill. 

Secondary outcomes included self-reported wellbeing and daily number of bowel movements.

Larger and longer clinical trials will now be needed to build on these results and prove that the faecal treatment works. The safety of the pill also needs to be investigated thoroughly.

The pill has only a specific application to people hospitalised with recurrent C. difficile infection, and does not relate to other causes of diarrhoea or digestive conditions.