A new study holds hope for the fight against a persistent and potentially lethal bacteria, but most patients might find the cure a little tough to swallow.
A 2009 study showed that 13 of every 1,000 hospital patients in the U.S. were infected with C. difficile, a bacteria that causes diseases ranging from diarrhea, to inflammation of the colon, to blood poisoning. The rate of infection was six to 20 times greater than previously estimated, and represented a cost of up to $51.5 million.
Moreover, a growing number of infections involve a particularly virulent strain of the pathogen, according to the CDC.
According Reuters, the bacteria in some cases "may not respond well to antibiotics," with infections persisting for months and even years.
But now, a new study by Australian gastroenterologist Professor Thomas Borody has shed light on a treatment once considered only as a last resort by many doctors.
It might be known by a plethora of names ranging from humorous to innocuously vague -- "transpoosion" to "bacteriotherapy" -- but there's no sugar-coating the news: the most effective known cure for C. difficile may be to receive a transplant of -- or ingest --someone else's feces.
The new study shows that donor stool transplantation effectively cured 90 percent of patients' recurrent C. difficile infection. Transplanting donor stool is effective because it replaces the bowel flora that naturally combat the invasive bacterium.
The transplant can be "administered by colonoscope or an enema, or by the mouth or the nose," according to Reuters.
Researchers concede that the cure's image problem is a major challenge to widespread adoption of the method, but also report that they are well underway in developing artificial feces, "comprised of bacteria isolated in culture from stool of a healthy donor," to treat C. difficile infection.