The correct term is fecal transplant – it involves liquidizing the stool of a healthy donor, and then injecting it into the patient’s large intestine. This can recolonize the healthy bacteria in your gut, if it has been lost due to the overuse of antibiotics. So far it has had great success, but there are regulatory hurdles to overcome. The FDA only approves drugs, devices, vaccines and tissues. Feces aren’t in their brief, and without the permission of the FDA, clinical trials cannot proceed.
The condition it has fixed (90% of the time) is a Clostridium difficule infection that results in constant diarrhea because it has taken over the gut and good bacteria are unable to re-establish themselves.
The full story is at Scientific American.
Most people contract MRSA in a hospital environment – in fact 18,000 Americans do just that (and then die) every year.
Less well-known is that MRSA exists in some more natural environments that don’t have much to do with humans.
The latter two have typically been infected by humans, while the disease appears in pig sties thanks to the overuse and abuse of antibiotics in livestock. These are all directly attributable to human activity.
So where did MRSA originate from?
Researchers led by epidemiologist Tara Smith of the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health in Iowa City took samples from 114 animals that came into the Wildlife Care Clinic, which rehabilitates injured or orphaned animals, at Iowa State University in Ames. Seven of the animals, or 6.1%, carried S. aureus that was sensitive to methicillin; these included owls, pigeons, a beaver, a heron, and a squirrel. Three animals, or 2.6%, carried MRSA: two Eastern cottontail rabbits and a lesser yellowlegs, a migratory shorebird. (For comparison’s sake: An estimated 1.5% of Americans carry MRSA in their noses.) [Source: Science Magazine]
It is presumed that these wild animals have never received any antibiotics, nor would they have had contact with humans – so they most probably have picked up the bugs directly from their local environment.
Worryingly, one of the pigeons was carrying a strain of MRSA that was resistant to the antibiotic vancomycin – acknowledged as the last defense.
So, unfortunately for us, considering all the positive advances being made to make hospitals safer, a wild-animal-borne epidemic is a possibility, just one strain variation away. Imagine if it started spreading among pet cats or dogs?
To date this has been a controversial topic. Scientists are increasingly accepting the importance of gut flora, but seemingly logical remedies like probiotic yoghurt doesn’t seem to be much help.
A common hospital bacteria is in dire need of having its incidences reduced:
Clostridium difficile is a menace in hospitals and nursing homes, causing nearly 336,000 infections and 14,000 deaths a year in the United States. Antibiotics can temporarily knock down the bacterium, but about 25% of infected people relapse, often multiple times, because the germ produces spores that hand sanitizers and hand washing don’t kill. Antibiotics can also backfire because they kill the gut’s normal microbial community, clearing the way for C. difficile to resettle.
[Source: Science Mag]
A controversial remedy will be reported here tomorrow, using the excrement from healthy people…
Fortunately scientists have now isolated the beneficial bacteria from the fecal remedy, so these bacteria can be directly applied in a more acceptable manner. Mice only at this stage:
…identify a simple mixture of six phylogenetically diverse intestinal bacteria, including novel species, which can re-establish a health-associated microbiota and clear C. difficile027/BI infection from mice. Thus, targeting a dysbiotic microbiota with a defined mixture of phylogenetically diverse bacteria can trigger major shifts in the microbial community structure that displaces C. difficile and, as a result, resolves disease and contagiousness.