Human waste — a life saver?




WASHINGTON

Imagine a low-cost treatment for a life-threatening infection that could cure up to 90 percent of patients with minimal side effects, often in a few days.

It may sound like a miracle drug, but this cutting-edge treatment is profoundly simple — though somewhat icky: take the stool of healthy patients to cure those with hard-to-treat intestinal infections. A small but growing number of physicians have begun using these so-called fecal transplants to treat Clostridium difficile, commonly referred to as C-diff, a bacterial infection that causes nausea, cramping and diarrhea. The germ afflicts a half-million Americans annually and kills about 15,000 of them.

But fecal transplants pose a challenge for the Food and Drug Administration, which has decided to regulate the treatment as an experimental drug. Stool transplants don’t fit neatly into the agency’s standard framework. And while regulators have shown flexibility in their approach, some critics say the mere presence of government oversight is discouraging many doctors from offering transplants. That’s led some patients to seek out questionable “do-it-yourself” websites, forums and videos.

 

This story appears in the print edition of Daily Journal. Subscribers can read the entire story online by signing in here or in our e-Edition by clicking here.

All content copyright ©2014 Daily Journal, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.
All rights reserved. Click here to read our privacy policy.