Fake Fecal Transplants for Gut RePOOPulation

Click here to listen to this podcast

When normal populations of healthy bacteria in the gut get out of whack, the result can be the stubborn and recurrent bacterial infection known as Clostridium difficile – C-dif.  The main symptom is nearly constant and debilitating diarrhea. 

One of the most successful therapies for C-dif is to repopulate the intestines with healthy bacteria that keep that nasty C-dif in check. There’s been only one way to do this: import a small sample of a healthy person’s feces. That’s right. A poop-transplant.

But the “ick” factor of fecal transplants is a hurdle for some, as well as a regulatory conundrum for the FDA.  Which is why researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada came up with a synthetic alternative: a laboratory-made slurry of healthy bacteria they’re calling “rePOOPulate.” The research is published in the journal Microbiome. [Elaine O. Petrof et al., Stool substitute transplant therapy for the eradication of Clostridium difficile infection: "RePOOPulating" the gut]

It’s intended to replace human fecal matter in stool transplants, and researchers say it has several advantages. The bacteria are carefully controlled and can be tailored to the patient. It reduces the risk of transmitting disease. And, well, it’s just less gross.

—Gretchen Kuda Kroen

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

Follow Scientific American on Twitter @SciAm and @SciamBlogs.
Visit ScientificAmerican.com for the latest in science, health and technology news.

© 2013 ScientificAmerican.com. All rights reserved.