Here’s something I never thought I’d hear, let alone write an article about – faecal transplants. Yes, it’s exactly what you think it is. Taking the poop out of one person and putting it into another. It’s a lot, more disgusting that it sounds, but this medical procedure actually has the potential to save lives. And would you believe, it’s been around since the late 1990s?
Dr. Alisdair MacConnachie is perhaps the only doctor in the UK to have ever performed the transplant. Calling it a proven treatment, this is how he says it’s done. A patient is put on antibiotics up until the night before, after which pills are given to control the stomach acids. The next morning a donor will come in and provide a stool sample. The donor is usually a close relative who tends to eat the same kind of food and lives in the same environment as the patient. Next, 1oz of the sample is taken and churned with salt water in a blender. Eww, right? No wait, it gets worse. The fluid is then poured through a coffee filter to produce a very watery liquid. And now, for the worst part – a tube is inserted up the patient’s nose that goes all the way down to the stomach. 1fl oz of the liquid is poured right in. I will now give you a moment to recover.
Photo © Lindspetrol
By now you must be wondering why on earth anyone would want to do that to themselves. Well, the procedure is apparently a ‘proven’ treatment for Clostridium difficile infection, when all else has failed. When a person takes excessive antibiotics, all the good bacteria in the intestines are sometimes swept right away. This lets the C. difficile bacteria multiply rapidly, causing an infection and resulting in diarrhea that can be fatal. More antibiotics are prescribed to these patients but if it doesn’t work, faecal transplants are the last resort, to restore the good bacteria.
Dr. MacConnachie says the treatment is very effective and all his patients, barring one, have ridden themselves of C. difficile. This however, doesn’t stop him from admitting that, “it sounds disgusting, it is disgusting and I think people are probably worried about approaching patients and discussing it.” That’s the reason many other doctors aren’t carrying out the procedure, although it’s a published technique.
Think about it, given the choice between dying and having poop shoved up your nose, what would you do? It would be very hard, but I think I’d go with the poop.