Though childish songs make crude jokes, there's nothing funny about diarrhea. Aside from the painful, twisting feeling in your guts, there's just something psychologically upsetting about losing control of your bowels. It's embarrassing. It's disgusting. And we've all been there.
one of the top emerging disease threats.
Of course, most patients aren't exactly thrilled with the suggestion of shoving someone else's bowel movements up their rectums or down their throats. Now, University of Guelph researchers have developed a more sanitary way of achieving the same results: synthetic poop.
The researchers created fake feces, aptly named RePOOPulate, after careful examination of bacterial colonies grown from the stool of healthy volunteers. Once the right ratio of species was determined, 33 different bacteria were grown in a robotic intestine simulator affectionately called Robo-gut to create a 'super-probiotic' stool substitute. According to the scientists, the bacterial mixture is much more palatable than what it mimics, and smells significantly better. Two patients treated with RePOOPulate showed marked improvement after three days, remaining C. difficile-free months after treatment. Tests of their intestinal flora showed that the fake crap successfully introduced beneficial bacteria to the patients' guts.
It's hard to say exactly how effective the new treatment is off of such a small test, but the results are very promising. Because scientists can control the bacterial mixture in RePOOPulate, there is less risk of introducing potentially harmful bacteria than with regular stool transplants, and the treatment can be tweaked to meet the needs of different patients. This proof-of-concept paper opens the doors for future testing. In time, RePOOPulate may prove a safe and effective treatment for C. difficile infection, as well as other gut diseases caused by the imbalance of beneficial bacteria like inflammatory bowel disease.
Citation: Petrof E.O., Gloor G.B., Vanner S.J., Weese S.J., Carter D., Daigneault M.C., Brown E.M., Schroeter K. & Allen-Vercoe E. (2013). Stool substitute transplant therapy for the eradication of Clostridium difficile infection: ‘RePOOPulating’ the gut, Microbiome, 1 (1) 3. DOI: 10.1186/2049-2618-1-3