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3 Crazy Things Fecal Transplants Could Treat

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, or MRSA, is one infection researchers are studying if fecal transplants could treat.

Fecal transplants are getting a lot of love from researchers.

To start, a fecal microbiome transplant – also known as a stool transplant – really has very little to do with feces. Researchers instead are harnessing the bacteria. It’s most commonly being used to treat a clostridium difficile, or C. Diff, infection that won’t respond to antibiotics, with very promising early results.

“If the concept of using microbes to treat disease actually works, there’s a whole new field of medicine this could generate,” said Lee Jones, founder and CEO of Rebiotix, a company looking to commercialize the fecal microbiome. “It allows the antibiotics we’ve developed today to treat other diseases to be saved to treat those diseases and not be overused.”

Hit the audio player above to listen to an interview with Lee Jones of Rebiotix. 

I looked through the FDA’s clinical trial site, and it’s not just C. Diff infections being studied. There are 97 open studies where fecal microbiota are being studied as a treatment. In some ways, research is like journalism: You don’t know if you don’t ask.

Here are three conditions where fecal transplants are being studied as a possible treatment :

MRSA: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is a lot like C. Diff. It’s a natural bacteria, but if it becomes resistant to antibiotics, it can get bad. Researchers are looking to use the healthy bacteria in feces to treat MRSA.

Obesity: One study looks to transplant bacteria from a healthy, lean donor to an obese patient. It’s an interesting research point. There have been some people who don’t respond to diet and exercise, and much of the previous research has looked for genetics. Maybe there’s a microbiome cause?Anyway, this study isn’t recruiting yet.

Hepatic encephalopathy: This one intrigued me because it’s technically a brain dysfunction. This is the confusion and altered mental status that happens when your liver doesn’t filter out toxins right. What role the microbiome could play in this is beyond my comprehension. Check here for that study.

-- Reporter Abe Aboraya is part of WMFE in Orlando. Health News Florida receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya works for WMFE in Orlando. He started writing for newspapers in high school. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe worked as a reporter for the Orlando Business Journal. He comes from a family of health care workers.