Fecal Transplant in a Pill

There is a new treatment for C. diff infection that's safe, effective, and has no known down side except that it's disgusting to think about.

From the recent Infectious Diseases Society of America meeting in San Francisco comes word of a new treatment for C. diff infection that's safe, effective, and has no known down side except that it's disgusting to think about.

The treatment: bacteria obtained from your relatives' excrement, in pill form.

Infections involving the intestinal bacterium Clostridium difficile sicken half a million Americans a year and kill 14,000 a year, making it a serious public health concern. Symptoms include severe diarrhea (20 times a day is not uncommon), abdominal pain, and fever, leading to dehydration, weakness, and life-threatening colitis.

How do you get it? Funny you should ask, because at the same IDSA conference, a paper was presented showing that antibiotics are severely overprescribed for bronchitis and sore throats (which are usually not treatable with antibiotics). The antibiotics wipe out good bacteria in your gut, paving the way for infection by C. diff, which is often already present as a minority species.

Fecal transplantation has become an increasingly common way to treat C. diff infection. It's effective about 90 percent of the time. But until now, it has typically involved receiving "donor" fecal material via enema, colonoscopic techniques, or nose tube. Not exactly convenient.

At the recent Infectious Disease Society meeting, University of Calgary researchers reported a high success rate when treating C. diff infections using custom-made pills. To make the pills, researchers purified fecal bacteria (often obtained from stool samples donated by patients' family members) and then encapsulated the concentrated bacteria in triple-gel-coated tablets. The gel coats ensured that the pills would not leak or dissolve until passing into the small intestine. In the study, patients ingested 24 to 34 pills. The success rate: 28 out of 28 patients cured.

The U. Calgary study has not yet been published. More information about it can be found here.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

4 reasons Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for universal basic income

In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.

(Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
  • The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
  • Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
Keep reading Show less