75.8 F

Fecal transplant: An unconventional therapy


This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons.
This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:E_coli_at_10000x,_original.jpg. Low-temperature electron micrograph of a cluster of E. coli bacteria, magnified 10,000 times. Each individual bacterium is oblong shaped.


The idea of transplanting a person’s stool to another’s body is one that most would find difficult to grasp. But for patients suffering from severe or recurrent Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection, who have received numerous and costly unsuccessful treatments, fecal transplantation is curative and lifesaving.

According to CDC reports, the incidence of C. diff infection in both community and hospital settings are at historic highs.  In recent years, the morbidity and mortality of C. diff infection have also increased significantly. C. diff  infection causes 14,000 American deaths each year, and at least $1 billion in extra health care costs annually.

C. diff infection occurs when normal colonic bacterial flora is disrupted following antibiotic use.  It can be easily transmitted from person to person. C. diff is commonly treated with antibiotics that are costly and can be counterproductive. Up to 30% patients are unable to mount antibodies against C. diff infection and subsequently develop recurrent C. diff infections. Some patients may develop as many as 10-20 recurrences. Patients with recurrent C. diff infection often become chronically ill, some require multiple hospitalizations or long-term antibiotic therapy. However, repeated or long-term antibiotic therapy makes the restoration of normal gut flora almost impossible, and C. diff infection is more likely to recur. The vicious cycle continues.

More doctors are turning to fecal transplantation, also known as fecal bacteriotherapy, for treatment of patients with C. diff infection. The concept of this treatment is to transfer normal gut bacterial flora from a healthy person to a patient with C. diff infection. The transplanted normal bacteria flora colonize and displace the pathogenic C. diff in the intestines, and restoration of normal bio-environment occurs.

Studies and case reports indicate that fecal transplantation is an extremely effective therapy for recurrent C. diff infection. Patients are able to be off antibiotic treatment immediately after fecal transplant, and usually feel better within 1-3 days.

Fecal transplantation involves the administering of stool (normal gut bacterial flora) obtained from a healthy donor into the infected patient’s intestines. The donor, typically a spouse or close relative, is evaluated for a wide array of infectious agents, which include C. diff, hepatitis A, B, C, and HIV. On the day of the fecal transplant procedure, the donor submits fresh stool, which is then processed and mixed with saline solution and then delivered into the infected intestines through EGD or colonoscopy.

Gastroenterology Consultants, Carson City, is the only center in Northern Nevada to offer fecal transplantation to patients with C. diff infections. Dr. Hong Gao has been successfully treating patients with fecal transplantation since 2005.

This Is Reno is your source for award-winning independent, online Reno news and events since 2009. We are locally owned and operated.