Poop Does the Trick!

3 02 2011

We’re cringing at reports that some doctors are successfully treating an intractable superbug with a poop  transplant.

Apparently, in a small number of cases, fecal transplantation has been successful in conquering “C. diff,” or Clostridium difficile. This pesky bacterium, particularly disabling to the elderly and infirm, scoffs at antibiotics like Superman scoffs at bullets.

As with too many other bugs, C. diff loves hospitals, and also thrives in the community, making control of the infection routes that much more difficult.

Probiotics have been making the rounds for years as one type of treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and the like, on the theory that intestinal disorders are caused by a lack of good bacteria in the gut, and fecal transplantation works along the same lines, placing healthy bacteria from a normally functioning bowel into the bowel of a sick person.

It’s too soon to tell if the risks associated with this bacteriotherapy outweigh the potential rewards.  We don’t even know what all the risks might be—there haven’t been enough studies done on this procedure to prove it safe and effective, or not.

Move Over MRSA, C. difficile is Here

30 04 2010

Clostridium difficile, or C. difficile, is a tough bacterium that’s been around a long time and has always been more prevalent in hospitals and healthcare facilities than MRSA.

It plagues those who are older, or immunocompromised, or have a serious illness. However, those on simple antibiotics can also be at risk.

A new strain of C. difficile has been detected and it is more drug-resistant, more virulent, and more deadly than other, older strains.

C. difficile can be transmitted in feces, so anything that comes into contact with feces in or out of a healthcare setting can readily spread the bacterium. This includes any surface, or standard objects such as rectal thermometers, commodes, bathing tubs, or table tops. It also includes healthcare professionals with contaminated hands or clothing.

C. difficile can be recurring. The germ creates spores which remain dormant on surfaces for weeks or months at a time. If we touch the contaminated surface and eat something without washing our hands, we might just “eat” C. difficile.

Testing procedures include various kinds of stool testing, an examination of the colon, or a CT scan.

There’s no specific test that differentiates between the various C. difficile strains, including the more virulent, drug-resistant strain.

Common symptoms include watery diarrhea, fever, nausea, abdominal pain and lack of appetite.

Complications from C. difficile may result in a torn colon or perforated bowel, PMC colitis, sepsis, and death.

Treatment might be as simple as stopping an antibiotic, or changing to a different one, but sometimes the infection is so bad that patients will try a fecal transplant. And you have to read about this, even if just for the “eeeewww” factor.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are effective in cutting back MRSA infections, but for C. difficile, good old fashioned handwashing with soap and water works better.

MRSA and C. difficile are in our communities as well as in our hospitals, and they’re not the only superbugs defeating the antibiotics we have.

Scientists are trying to stay a step ahead by developing more and better drugs to defeat these stubborn and drug-resistant microbes.