Now There Will Be a Market Even for Secondhand Food: New Help Is Found for Diarrhea -- Fecal Transplants

05/02/2014 04:33 pm ET Updated Jun 30, 2014

An article in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases reports that transplanting feces from healthy persons into diarrheic individuals can help their diarrhea. As summarized by Eureka Alert:

Using frozen stool from healthy, unrelated donors was safe and effective in treating patients with serious, relapsing diarrhea caused by Clostridium difficile [CD] ... Known as fecal microbiota transplantation, the treatment was equally effective whether given via a colonoscope or a nasogastric tube [down through the nose, into the stomach].

A quarter million Americans are hospitalized each year for CD diarrhea, up from only about 80,000 yearly in 1988; 14,000 Americans now die yearly from this ailment. More than a billion dollars yearly are spent treating it. So, the market for healthy feces will be substantial.

The present pilot study, by Ilan Youngster, M.D., and colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital, treated 20 patients suffering from repeated episodes of CD infection, with transplanted feces. Fourteen of the patients were cured after one administration of donated stool. Of the remaining six patients, five received a second administration, and four were cured, for an overall cure rate of 90 percent. This method works by introducing, into the patient's gut, the missing but necessary bacteria.

If this news had been reported a month ago, it might have been mistaken for an April Fools Day joke, but it's no joke; it's instead a new market for something that's as old as the human species, if not before.

Perhaps we're heading into a world where everything will be recycled.