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This cartoon is from a serious article on fecal transplants, part of my course on gut bacteria. Also, it says POOP and BUTT a lot, hee hee!

As horrifying as the very idea of fecal transplants might be, it’s one of the most promising treatments to come along in ages, particularly for dealing with Clostridium difficile. C. diff, as I devoutly hope none of us knows from experience, is a truly nasty bacterial infection of the gut and highly resistant to antibiotics, even the stupid expensive new ones. From the article:

A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in January of this year [2013] found that 13 out of 16 people treated with fecal transplants were cured of C. diff. Two of the remaining three were cured with a second transplant. The results were so impressive that the researchers found it unethical to continue the other study group on antibiotics, and they received transplants as well.

When it works, it works overnight. Word.

So why aren’t fecal transplants the first line of defense against C. diff? Simple: money, honey. Drug companies can do little to capitalize on or patent human feces. It’s highly unlikely that, without an opportunity to make money, transplants will get the research funding they deserve. Without more research, they remain controversial — a lot of doctors won’t perform them, and some C. diff sufferers resort to at-home transplants [ack! – Weasel]. To further complicate things, the FDA tried earlier this year to regulate transplants by classifying human stool as a biologic drug. That means doctors would have to get an IND (Investigational New Drug) application before performing a transplant, slowing down the process and delaying life-saving treatment. Thankfully the FDA backed off, but it’s possible they’ll attempt regulation again in the future.

This lady was completely cured of her C. diff after a single transplant from her (horribly embarrassed) nine-year-old niece. I should add, though, she still has a nasty, lifelong dose of inflammatory bowel disease, so it ain’t everything. Still.

I used to think blaming drug companies for not following up unprofitable treatments was a bit unfair. Well, actually, I still think it’s unfair — it costs bzillions to research a new drug and carry it through to approval, so of course they don’t follow up on things they can’t patent. It would be a dereliction of duty to their shareholders to do otherwise. Now I blame medical research for not stepping up just a little better. And the regulatory state for getting in the way, of course.

So that’s Week 4 of 6 – two weeks of POOP and BUTT studies yet to come!

June 7, 2017 — 8:47 pm
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