According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 14,000 people in the United States will die from an infection of Clostridium difficile, a stubborn bacteria that affects the stomach, the intestines, and even the colon in this year. Ironically, the infections of the gastrointestinal tract usually start after patients finish a round of antibiotics. Patients from all walks of life like 79 year old, Marion Browning and 20 year old Kaitlin Hunter have suffered with the abdominal cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea that is associated with the infection. The bacteria eats away at the lining of the intestines, causes severe weight, and ultimately death if it is not cured. And, the infected contract the affliction through various manners.
For Marion Browning, the C. diff. infection occurred as a result of the treatment of diverticulitis, another infection that inflames the small pouches in the wall of the colon. She began to have recurring diarrhea soon after she began taking the prescribed antibiotics to cure her initial infection. Her doctor would give her more powerful drugs and the C. diff. infection would subside for a while, but within a few days it returned with the diarrhea.
Kaitlin Hunter was injured in a terrible car accident that nearly took her life. The crash left her spine fractured, broke all ten of her toes, and pierced both her liver and her colon. Almost as soon as she was released from the hospital, she began to have stomach pains. The abdominal pain continued and was joined by unrelenting vomiting and diarrhea in the next few weeks. Kaitlin lost 40 pounds before being hospitalized again.
Both patients suffered with the intestinal infection because Clostridium difficile naturally resides in the gastrointestinal tract. It is part of a system of competing bacteria in the human body that helps people to process food. The cocktail of antibiotic drugs that both Browning and Hunter took to fight off the common infections like Staphylococcus aureus also killed the healthy bacteria or gut flora that allows the gastrointestinal tract to function properly. C. diff overtook the competing bacteria and began eating away at both patients intestines and colons.
However, the ladies were incredibly lucky. There is a new experimental procedure that is available for patients that are afflicted with stubborn cases of this troublesome bacteria, the fecal transplant. Doctors are now taking “healthy” feces from donors and placing it in the colon and intestines of patients with C. diff. infections. The bodies of the patients respond to the healthy bacteria and recover fairly quickly. Kelly received a transplant from her 49 year old son, and Kaitlin procured one from her mother. Though both of these successful procedures were performed through the rectum, doctors can also feed a tube down the nasal passage down the throat to the intestines to perform the transplant. A recent study published in the last year reported a 91% cure rate after just one fecal matter transplant, and a 98% cure rate when combined with an additional round of antibiotics. All of the study participants had a recurring C. diff infection and had five unsuccessful rounds of antibiotic-only treatments over 11 months, on average. No available drug cures 95% of ailments that it treats.
The procedure is cheap, safe, and productive. Doctors simply had to take the crap from one person and put it into their patients. There were no knives and fuss. Apparently, poop really can save lives.