Frozen fecal transplants cure C. diff, could be a game-changer, researchers say

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Fecal transplants to cure Clostridium difficile could become more common, following a trial that successfully used frozen stool specimens, according to researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Fecal transplants have proven successful in rebalancing gut bacteria that are affected by C. diff, a potentially fatal antibiotic-resistant infection that is common in long-term care settings. However, it can be difficult to find and screen donors for each procedure. To address this impediment, researchers at MGH undertook a feasibility study using frozen fecal matter from donors unrelated to the patients, which could be administered either through colonoscopy or nasogastric tube. 

After a first round, 14 of 20 participants were cured of their C. diff-related diarrhea, according to the researchers. Five received another round of treatment and four of these individuals were cured, for a total cure rate of 90%.*

The results suggest that “banks” of frozen fecal matter could be created to expedite transplants when needed, the investigators wrote. Furthermore, administration through nasogastric tube, which is less invasive than colonoscopy, could be a life-saver for frail seniors who develop the condition, they noted in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The Food and Drug Administration has moved to increase fecal transplant regulations, but backed off plans to exercise strict control after healthcare providers protested.

*Editor's Note: This article originally stated that five patients were cured by a second dose.

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