By: Leah Howard
For years, antibiotics such as Vancomycin, have been used to treat C. difficile. This is a very effective way of treating the disease, but can wipe out all of the good bacteria located in the gut. This side effect can be an extremely harmful and allow the disease to become recurring or even resistant. When this method fails, some patients may turn to alternative treatment in order to help treat this disease, including fecal transplantation.
Fecal transplantation, or more specifically, fecal microbiota transplant (FMT), is a procedure that has roots in the 4th century CD, but has only recently been applied to treat C. difficile. Present day, FMT is a procedure completed during a colonoscopy, in which the liquidized stool from the donor is delivered into the patients colon. Success rates from fecal transplants are much more effective than standard antibiotic treatment. However, this lifesaving procedure has come under extreme scrutiny and investigation.
In 2013, with fecal transplantation on the rise the FDA announced that all human feces would be considered an unapproved drug and that any research in the field would have to undergo Investigational New Drug (IND) approval. This means that research practices and outcomes must be tested for quality, usefulness, and ultimately worthiness of production on a large-scale basis. Over the past couple of years, the FDA has loosened their tight regulation on FMT research but is still hesitant on its use as a drug and as treatment for diseases such as C. difficil.
The new fields of fecal transplantation and the human microbiome are growing very rapidly as the Human Microbiome Project, an initiative that began less than 10 years ago, attempts to map the Human Microbiome. This work has opened doors for research on topics ranging from how the vaginal microbiome affects pregnancy to how the microbiome can influence the incidence of disease. With these exciting findings, there are sure to be new discoveries and breakthroughs in both fields very soon.
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