A strain of bacteria called C. difficile is responsible for over 10,000 deaths each year in the United States alone. These stomach bacteria cause vomiting, cramps, fever, and diarrhea severe enough to kill. Antibiotics are currently the leading method of treatment to try and eradicate this bacteria from the stomachs of people who have fallen ill.
There is one problem with using antibiotics to try and kill this intestinal bacteria. People typically get C. difficile infections from prior use of antibiotics for past infections. Antibiotics are known to destroy both the good and bad bacteria. Unfortunately, when good bacteria is eliminated, it can lead to harmful bacteria such as C. difficile taking up residence in the gut.
The harmful bacteria cause stomach problems such as diarrhea, vomiting, and cramps. Good bacteria actually aid digestion and are vital for good health. A new treatment option for C. difficile stomach infections is using good bacteria to fight off C. difficile bacteria. This new treatment option involves using fecal bacteria from healthy patients.
According to the New York Times, the new treatment option works in the following way. An enema is created that has healthy stomach bacteria from a healthy individual. This bacteria is extracted from a person’s feces. Our feces normally contain bacteria that are vital to our gut health.
The enema with the healthy bacteria is then inserted into the person who has a C. difficile infection. It is believed that the healthy bacteria from the fecal matter then crowd out harmful bacteria such as C. difficile. Once the C. difficile bacteria is crowded out, it no longer poses a risk to that person.
The new treatment using fecal bacteria is much milder than antibiotics. It does not kill good bacteria as well as the bad. The good bacteria simply crowd out the harmful bacteria and helps restore a natural and healthy level of gut bacteria.
Research into the effectiveness of the new treatment using fecal bacteria has already yielded positive results. Studies have shown that the use of fecal bacteria has been just as effective as the standard use of antibiotic treatment.
A big hurdle remains to use fecal bacteria enemas on a large scale, though. People are naturally resistant to using a treatment that involves bacteria extracted from another person’s feces. It does not have widespread support or acceptability in the medical community either. Still, the top researchers and specialists into stomach infections believe that this new treatment for C. difficile is the most effective one available right now. They say it is even better than antibiotics.