A "poop pill" has been shown to be effective against persistent and debilitating Clostridium difficile infections, which kill 14,000 Americans and sicken more than a half-million each year.
A full fecal transplant replacing vital gut bacteria -- but in pill form -- has been at the center of an ongoing trial led by professor of medicine Thomas Louie at the University of Calgary in Canada.
So-called fecal transplants were previously carried out by collecting stool from a family member, diluting it, and administering it to the patient as an enema. This repopulated the gut with necessary bacteria, which patients can lose through antibiotic treatment or illness.
Now, Louie has used his handmade "poop pills" to treat 27 patients with recurring C. diff infections, and all 27 infections cleared.
Although the Canadian team reported a 100 percent success rate, the pills, currently made by Louie himself, are unique for each patient and so aren't ready to be mass-produced.
"The downside of this whole study is that it is a bespoke process that you have to prepare it for each individual," said Emma Allen-Vercoe, a microbiologist at the University of Guelph working on a ready-to-use treatment called Repoopulate, which uses stool collected from healthy donors with good gut bacteria, to be used generically for any C. diff patient.
The Food and Drug Administration, which formerly required physicians performing fecal transplants to get approval for the procedure as a drug trial, has since allowed physicians to use fecal transplant for recurring C. diff infections.