About 250.000 have to be hospitalized annually in the U.S. because of the bacteria named “Clostridium difficile”, which cause the death for at least 14.000 of them. A hopeful new study revealed that a capsule with a single, unexpected ingredient may help fight off the disease.

People infected with Clostridium difficile suffer debilitating diarrhea that can turn deadly even with adequate treatment. These infections cannot be treated easily due to the fact that the antibiotics destroy normal gut microbes, which help keep pathogenic species under control by competing with it for space and resources.


The study, undertaken by doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital, managed to develop a procedure called “fecal microbiotia transplantation” (FMT), a.k.a. fecal bacteriotherapy, which delivers fresh fecal material from healthy donors to restore the good gut bacteria and keep the normal balance of beneficial microbes. Basically, they figured out a way to tell you to “eat sh!t and get better” with a straight face.

But the fecal transplants are normally not easy. The procedure typically needs a donation of fresh feces, usually from a relative, and a colonoscopy to deliver it.

The study yielded largely positive results, as the fecal transplants were about 90% successful, and shoed themselves to be a treatment proven to curb the severe diarrhea and other symptoms that characterize C. diff infections.

Dr. Elizabeth Hohmann, a staff physician at Mass General and researcher told NPR:

“Just getting the tube down is a problem.”

The researchers got samples from young, healthy volunteers in order to examine the hypothesis. The volunteers were screened to make sure they didn’t have HIV, hepatitis or other infectious diseases.

The doctors have to wait four weeks to test the donors again after putting the substance under freeze, to make sure nothing bad was starting to grow when they took the sample. The pill production then begins after getting a clean bill of health.


Dr. Ilan Youngster, a fellow in pediatric infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and one of the scientists involved in the study, said a written statement released by the hospital:

“Numerous reports have shown that FMT is effective in treating active C. difficile infection and preventing recurrences in patients whose infections failed to respond to standard treatments. The procedures that have been used before–colonoscopies, nasogastric tubes, even enemas–all have potential risks and discomforts for patients.”

The researchers explained that the pill wouldn’t require invasive procedures, and would be less likely to cause vomiting. Inside the capsule are human feces – strained, centrifuged and frozen. They added that donors wouldn’t have to be standing by if the pills were frozen.

It’s very important to find the donor in the right time to avoid a delay in the transplant. Otherwise, the cost will certainly be higher than with convention treatment.


Dr. Youngster added:

“Many people can be carriers of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that are shed in their stools, but have no symptoms, It’s not enough to know your donor and just ask how he or she feels, as some websites suggest. In any form, this procedure should only be performed under strict medical supervision with material from thoroughly screened donors.”

The gastroenterologist, Dr. Colleen Kelly, who was not involved in the study, said:

“Capsules are going to replace the way we’ve been doing this. You have to find a donor, have to screen a donor. If you can just open a freezer and take out a poop pill, that’s wonderful.”

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on October 11 after it was tested and successfully treated many patients. Although, the pills are not being marketed yet, the authors of the study expressed their readiness to make them available for those in need.

Additional Resources:

(1) Idea of ‘poop pill’ hard to swallow, but can cure deadly bacteria

(2) Poop Pills May Offer A Better Way To Eradicate This Deadly Infection

(3) Images Credits: Flickr (1), Flickr (2), Flickr (3).

(4) The Main Study