'Poop pills' as good as colonoscopy to treat C. difficile

Stool capsules could be the magic pill for treatment of the dangerous infection

CBC, November 2017, Edited and paraphrased for length by Sasha Roeder Mah - 20 September 2018

When it comes to treating Clostridium difficile (C. diff) with a fecal microbiota transplant -yes, human poop-swallowing a frozen capsule appears to have far less of an "ick factor" and works as well as delivering the therapy via colonoscopy, University of Alberta researchers say.

C. diff is a potentially fatal infection of the gut marked by severe diarrhea and abdominal pain. Outbreaks in hospitals and long-term care facilities are notoriously challenging to eradicate.

A study led by U of A associate professor and gastroenterologist Dina Kao ('94 BSc, '99 MD, '08 MSc) found that while both methods resulted in a 96-per-cent success rate in treating C. difficile, the capsules have many advantages: They are non-invasive, less expensive and can be administered in a doctor's office without the patient being sedated.

Kao believes administering fecal microbiota transplant using capsules-a delivery mode in which fecal matter from donors is refined, then frozen-could help broaden the use of fecal transplants for treating C. diff.

"This will transform the way people think about how we deliver fecal microbiota transplant," Kao said, noting that using the capsules instead of colonoscopy could save the health system at least $1,000 per patient. "From a health-care perspective, I think it becomes a no-brainer," said Kao. "Why would we be delivering a transplant by any other route?"

The research was funded by Alberta Health Services and the University Hospital Foundation and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.