Forget Ebola: Clostridium Difficile Killed 14,000 People a Year, But Now There’s The “Poop Pill”

With all of the attention on the Ebola virus (which has claimed only one life in this country so far ), there’s an intestinal bug out there that’s been killing 14,000 Americans each year; its name is Clostridium difficile, but most health care professionals just call it C. diff.

There’s no easy way to put this: C. diff attacks victims where they sit — and as the bacteria ravages the digestive tract, the resulting (often uncontrollable) diarrhea has been resistant to medical treatment. Since C diff is resistant to most antibiotic treatments, doctors often found the best way to reintroduce “good bacteria” to the site of the infection, was through a process of fecal transplant. Yes, that means exactly what you think it does; the procedure was often less than pleasant.

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Say hello to the “poop pill.”

Rather than suffer through the process of finding a donor (a family member is typically a good match) and then enduring a colonoscopy to chase away the bacteria, a frozen capsule containing “healthy” fecal matter is now available to treat this life-threatening infection.

The good news: it’s practically a “take two and call me in the morning” cure for a potentially fatal infection. In clinical trials, test subjects actually took 15 pills a day over a two-day period, with most patients experiencing immediate relief of their symptoms. The FDA has now dropped requirements from doctors to seek prior approval from the agency before administering a course of “fecal microbiota for transplantation.”

The bad news: the capsules had to be tough enough to stand up to the corrosive acids in our stomach (so the fecal matter inside reaches the site of infection deep within the intestines). Yes, that means you’ll have to see the poop, before you pop it in your mouth. Consider it a small price to pay to avoid the indignities of previously prescribed medical procedures.

In a statement prepared by The American College of Gastroenterology, the decision by the Food and Drug Administration to fast-track “poop pills” was seen as a positive step to “assure that patients in need of this extremely promising therapy for an intractable public health problem have unimpeded access to treatment as recommended by their physicians.”

It was either that, or “unimpeded access” to the nearest restroom.


Images courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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