Have you imagined a medical procedure or treatment that involves the use of feces? I guess you haven’t and you would surely argue that any procedure that makes use of feces is non-sensical and absurd. Yet, such procedure exists, and it is called Fecal Transplant. “This procedure is a bit icky!” you would say. However, Fecal Transplant, as a medical procedure, had already helped countless people who got problems with their guts.
Understanding Gut Flora and Fecal Transplant
The story behind the evolution of the medical procedure called “Fecal Transplant” goes a long way, and it took longer time for the procedure to be totally accepted by the medical world. However, to understand what Fecal Transplant is, it would be good to look at the flora constitution of the guts.
The human intestines are not free of microorganisms like bacteria. These microorganisms inside the intestines inhabit the intestines and they are collectively called the “gut flora” or “gut microbiota.” This gut flora is a complex community of microorganisms that maintains its numerical balance. There are many other places within the body wherein flora exists like those of the tonsils and mouth, but it is the gut flora which has the largest number of microorganisms.
The gut flora become highly established when a person reaches the age of two, and at this time, the linings of the intestines have already developed ways to be supportive of this gut flora. This gut flora usually serves as a protective barrier between the intestinal linings and pathogenic organisms.
Mutual Relationship between Humans and Gut Flora
This human-gut flora relationship is not only a peaceful coexistence and is mutually beneficial to each other. On the one hand, the human guts provide a good condition for the continuity of the existence of this flora. On the other hand, the gut flora helps the intestine to metabolize nutrients. Some microorganisms, for example, help in fermenting dietary fibers, turning them into fatty acids like acetic acid and butyric acid. Some microorganisms likewise play a role in the syntheses of vitamin B and K. Hence, the existence of this gut flora benefits humans throughout their lifetime.
The Onset of Imbalance
Since this gut flora is made up of or constituted by an assortment of various microorganisms, one group of organisms may increase in number and thus upset the balance within the intestines. This imbalance may also be due to various factors like a serious illness. It can also be due to taking antibiotics that could readily upset the balance within the guts. A bacterium called Clostridium difficile. This bacterium produces dangerous toxins that could harm the linings and cells of intestines. The balance of flora community within the guts can also be upset by the disease called ulcerative colitis, and one of the remedies for this disease is called “Fecal Microbiota Transplant” or simply “Fecal Transplant” .
The Fecal Microbiota Transplant
The other term for Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT) is “stool transplant.” At the onset, however, the simple act of suggesting this idea was really met with much revulsion in the medical world. But if you would look closer into its benefits, you would surely be amazed at how effective it is and would be glad that someone has the precocious mind to suggest such brilliant idea. The science is clear behind this procedure, and in some way, it is like a miracle for countless people who had CDI and ulcerative colitis and who had been saved and restored to their functionality because of this therapy.
Moreover, the prevalence of Clostridium difficile infection (C. dif) in both Europe and North America has prompted advocates of fecal transplant to further push with their FMT concept. At present, FMT is increasingly becoming popular and is becoming a first-line therapy for the disease of CDI.
Where Do They Get the Stool Specimen?
Not all people can be donors of stool for this type of therapy. In fact, there is a stringent procedure followed to qualify as a donor for FMT. Moreover, you need to be very healthy to be a donor. There are agencies that process fecal specimens to figure out which specimens would be healthy for Fecal Transplant. It is said that it is twice as hard to pass as a donor than passing the entrance examination in Harvard. The passing rate is around 4% of those who submitted their fecal specimens.
A prospective donor, for example, must undergo around 109 points critical assessments, and if he clears that, he must then go on submitting his stool sample, and if his stool passes the screening, he would then get his stool drawn within an hour and has it quarantined for 60 days under strict medical supervision. The fecal sample is then mixed with saline or other solution for transplanting to the recipient patient. This method is usually wrought via the procedures called colonoscopy, endoscopy, enema, or sigmoidoscopy.
What is the Success Rate of this Procedure?
Although more than a million people suffer from C. dif and ulcerative colitis, not many people with these diseases know about fecal transplant. In the U.S. alone, there are around 20 physicians who are allowed to perform this medical procedure in 2013 due to the ruling of FDA that classified this procedure under investigational New Drug in 2013. However, due to vehement protests against this ruling, the FDA reversed its ruling late in 2013.
The success rate of this therapy, according to statistical data, is more than 90% for those patients with C. dif disease. Moreover, there are no documented side-effects of this treatment at present. Lastly, Fecal Transplant is a low-risk procedure that is also less expensive than other known medical procedures for treating C. dif and Ulcerative colitis, and the procedure is usually covered by insurance.