Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fecal Transplants: Please Give a Sh*t

I consider myself an Adonis-/Chris Traeger-type because I don't need to go end up going to the doctor very often. I buff my immune system by exercising, meditating and occasionally eating things off of the floor.

However, many people DO go to the doctor, and 4/5 of Canadians will end up on antibiotics at some point in 2013. Doctors prescribe antibiotics with the knowledge that your own personal cohort of germy hangers-on outnumbers the 'bad' bacteria that are making you ill.

Due to their strength, antibiotics may kill off your good bacteria as well. When this happens, there's nothing stopping seriously bad bacteria from flooding your guts and setting up shop (for a refresher on guts, click no further; also read bacteria vs. viruses). Ironically, you're highly likely to contract these horrible organisms from the sparkling bastion of cleanliness that is your local hospital.
Once established, bugs like C. difficile (Clostridium difficile) thwart the return of your good bacteria. This lets the baddies launch a bowel takeover that can punch holes in your intestines and bloat up your butt-tube into what's called a 'toxic megacolon'. Up to 15,000 patients die every year from hospital-contracted C. difficile.

Who ya gonna call

If you get C. difficile, you're going to reach over with your immuno-compromised hand to pick up the phone and personally thank Dr. Ben Eiseman, former VP of the American College of Surgeons and founder of the fecal transplant.

 In 1958, Eiseman took a diluted sample of donor poo and pumped it into a colitis patient. Nowadays, they use a colonoscope (don't ask) or a nasoduodenal tube (REALLY don't ask). The good bacteria re-colonize the comprimised digestive tract, giving C. difficle the boot and allowing food to be digested once again. A study reported fecal bacteriotherapy works 94% of the time, and it's much cheaper than antibiotics.

What did we learn

Your body is a giant petri dish that hosts a raucous and volatile bacterial feeding frenzy. I'm going to go shower 17 times.


  1. By saying "it's much cheaper than antibiotics" do you mean it's much cheaper than taking antibiotics for the rest of your life? Is that what you'd have to do if not for fecal transplants?

    1. You'd have to take other antibiotics, and pursue other options! Fecal Microbiota Transplantation procedures run a couple of thousand dollars, whereas some antibiotics can be $400/day X weeks