Healthy Living

When it Comes to Crohn's, a Fecal Transplant Can Save Lives

When it Comes to Crohn's, a Fecal Transplant Can Save Lives

When it Comes to Crohn's, a Fecal Transplant Can Save Lives

In today’s day and age, with advancements in DNA-altering technologies and thousand-dollar medications, healthcare professionals are turning to a rather unusual technique to treat chronic inflammatory bowel diseases: fecal transplants. Believe it or not, feces are showing great promise in saving lives!

What is a fecal transplant? 

The proper name for a fecal transplant is fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT). It is a common, low-risk procedure that involves inserting the feces of a healthy individual into the gastrointestinal tract of an individual with an intestinal problem, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

The fecal matter, or stool, is collected from a donor and it is mixed with a saline or another type of solution, drained, and then placed into a patient by means of an endoscopy, colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy or enema. The donor can be anyone; however, often in pediatrics, it is a close family member, such as a parent.

The overall objective of a fecal transplant is to replace the good bacteria that has been suppressed or killed possibly through the excessive use of antibiotics, leading bad bacteria to take over and colonize the colon. In turn, this bad bacteria cause C. diff. colitis, which is an infection that triggers debilitating, and sometimes fatal, diarrhea. In the United States, C. diff colitis is responsible for almost half a million infections on an annual basis and it is associated with over 29,000 deaths a year.

Fecal transplants to effectively treat Crohn’s disease

A Seattle Children’s research study and the first FDA-approved study treating patients with Crohn’s disease by means of a fecal transplant proposes that it may be an effective treatment option.

The study, which involved the participation of 9 patients with Crohn’s disease, reported to effectively treating 7 patients using FMT. “This research could change the way Crohn’s disease is treated and help unravel the mystery of what causes it,” said Dr. David Suskind, lead author of the study and a gastroenterologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Health experts believe that Crohn’s disease is triggered when something goes wrong between a child’s genetic makeup, their microbiome, and their immune system. Although medications are commonly used to treat this disease, they can lead to unwanted side effects. Dr. Suskind questioned whether Crohn’s disease could be treated by improving the balance of microbes in the patient by means FMT. “Instead of treating the immune system’s reaction with powerful anti-inflammatory medications, I decided to try altering the bacteria in a patient’s digestive tract to treat the primary culprit causing IBD,” he said. 

Read on to learn more about fecal transplants and how they can help people living with IBD.