(NaturalNews) No, you did not read the headline wrong. And yes, as gross as it sounds, the headline is accurate.
Using human fecal matter to treat deadly and contagious C. diff infectionS is safe and highly effective.
So-called "fecal transplants," as they are known, are made from healthy people to those who are infected with the extremely difficult to treat Clostridium difficile bacteria, which causes severe, watery diarrhea. Researchers in a recent study at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit found that 46 out of 49 patients got better within a week of the treatment.
The transplants work, scientists say, because stool from health people - when mixed with warm water and delivered via tube into patients' colons - helps to reestablish and re-form normal bacteria that are present in a healthy gut.
"C. diff is a serious infection - people die from this," says Dr. Mayur Ramesh, a researcher and infectious disease physician associated with the study. "With this treatment, the cure rate is close to 100 percent."
Antibiotics may disrupt the normal balance of bacteria
According to published results, among the 46 patients in whom the transplant was successful, four experienced a recurrence of the infection during a follow-up period. That contrasts with a recurrence rate of 25-30 percent of patients who get the standard C. diff treatment, which is a course of antibiotics.
Three months after their treatment, the patients had not developed any complications or side effects following the transplants, the research team reported recently at an infectious diseases research meeting in San Diego.
C. diff infections are behind some 14,000 deaths annually in the United States, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Those at highest risk of infection tend to be older adults and others who take antibiotics (which, more people are beginning to learn, "indiscriminately kill bacteria, both good and bad," according to our own Craig Stellpflug).
"It's believed that antibiotics may disrupt the normal balance of bacteria species in the intestine, giving C. diff bacteria a chance to thrive," adds MyHealthNewsDaily.com.
Patients suffering from C. diff are most often treated with one of a pair of antibiotics - metronidazole or vancomycin - but these drugs don't work for everyone. In fact, in the most severe cases, patients may even need surgery to remove infected parts of their intestines.
In the Detroit study, scientists examined patients whose average age was 65 and who were treated with the fecal matter transplants over a two-year period. In most cases, donors were either the spouse of child of a patient; in other cases, siblings, parents and unrelated people were donors.
'These are patients who may die
Gross as it may sound, Ramesh told MyHealthNewsDailypatients were not bothered much by the notion of a fecal transplant.
"These patients, they suffer so much from their symptoms," he said. "When I tell them about this treatment, they say, 'wow, that makes sense, go ahead and do it.'"
In fact, none of the patients with the infection declined the treatment, said Ramesh.
Previous studies have also found a very high percentage of C. diff patients being successfully treated with the transplants. But the new researched differed from those earlier studies because some one-third of the patients had severe C. diff infections.
"These are the patients who may die, or need to have a section of their colon removed," said Ramesh. Other studies focused on patients with recurring, but less severe, infections, he noted.
Four patients in the study died, and that figure included three whose C. diff infections had been successfully treated with the fecal transplant. Those deaths were unrelated to the infection; researchers said they all had cancer prior to being treated.