Recurrent infections with Clostridium difficile bacteria are one of the main causes of intestinal distress. Antibiotics are capable of killing many of its bacterial competitors, but often not C. difficile, which allows C. difficile to run wild. Mild C. difficile cases are typically treated with the antibiotic metronidazole (Flagyl), and more serious cases with vancomycin (Vancocin). Both drugs are capable of killing the active form of the bacterium, but the spore form may survive. As a result, in about a fifth of cases, the spores spring to life once treatment with the antibiotic has stopped. AfterC. difficile recurs, over half of all patients may develop chronic, and potentially fatal, infections. Now, some doctors think they've found an effective, if somewhat off-putting, treatment for patients whose intestinal microbiomes have been compromised by C. difficile infections. Fecal transplant, a procedure in which feces from a healthy donor are transferred into the gut of a sick patient, is supposed to restore the damaged microbial community in the patient's intestine. The idea of fecal transplant isn't new — the first case report was published in 1958 — but the popularity of the procedure has increased since 2000.
To continue reading this article, you must login
Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.