Are Fecal Transplants the Future of Medicine?

Fecal Transplants

This article originally appeared on

Fecal transplants are real, and yes, technically a medical thing.

A relatively new technology designed to help battle C. diff, the most common hospital-contracted illness that’s extremely difficult to treat with antibiotics, fecal transplants hold some promising results.

“Doctors, health officials, researchers, and entrepreneurs have begun to see the potential of fecal transplants to treat not just C. diff, but perhaps a multitude of ailments, from irritable bowel syndrome to chronic constipation,” reports Mother Jones.

As a new, and never-going-to-be-not-gross procedure, fecal transplants are gaining acceptance as a legitimate treatment. The MIT-formed nonprofit OpenBiome, collects and sells “screened” stools for procedures such as treating C.diff, Mother Jones explains. “With more than 70 hospitals around the United States using their stool to treat patients, it’s currently the largest of a family of nonprofit stool banks, having shipped more than 840 treatments to 87 hospitals in 30 states and the District of Columbia.”

But the FDA hasn’t fully regulated fecal matter yet; it’s currently receiving a drug class regulation until a final rule is issued. There are questions as to just how it should be classified, handled and distributed moving forward. OpenBiome says it should be classified like tissue (blood or organs), while others see it more as a drug or vaccine of sorts. “Regulating poop as a drug would subject it to a higher standard of safety tests by submitting it to clinical trials and generate data which could benefit the entire field,” explains Mother Jones. “But critics of that approach say it will limit the supply of this therapy to companies that can afford to undergo the trials.”

Other options do exist, like a product called RBX2660 made by a company called Rebiotix, which is an enema that includes fecal matter along with other compounds, preventing doctors (and patients) from having to directly handle or come in contact with “live” poop.

As gross as it all sounds, fecal transplants waft (I’m sorry) of good future-fashioned effective science. Most impressively is treat-the-symptom-not-the-cause oriented Western medicine’s embrace of the significance that the microbiome holds for treating and preventing disease. That is so promising in and of itself that it far outweighs the ick factor of fecal transplants.

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: Terry Johnston

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  • Anonymous

    what the he** is this. No explaination>

  • ShashiNYC

    Yes, they work. And sometimes they may be the last best hope. But at least one NYC gastroenterologist who performs fecal transplants says that the transplant may introduce a new set of unknown risks contained within the fecal matter. They just don’t know for sure. That is why the procedure is reserved for only the most dire and intractable cases of C. Diff.