Fecal transplants have been in the news in the last few years as a novel way to treat powerful, debilitating bacterial infections, namely those of people infected with the bacterium C. difficile. The FDA is has introduced strict new regulations for the procedure, however, which is causing some people to take matters into their own hands…er, colons.
Fecal transplants basically involve taking poop from a healthy person and inserting it into the digestive system of a person suffering from a bacterial infection. It’s proven to be extremely effective at treating these kinds of infection, even more so than powerful antibiotics. However, in a recent letter to the American Gastroenterological Association, the FDA says that doctors wanting to use this treatment must at first file a ”investigational new drug application.” According to Wired.com:
This requires a lot of advance paperwork, 30 days of consideration, and does not return not a guaranteed yes [sic]. For the transplants, which have been performed informally but carefully by a growing number of physicians as a treatment (and often cure) for devastating C. difficile infection, it may improve safety, but it can’t help but impose obstacles and delay.
But apparently this new regulation could be putting up needless roadblocks for people who want and need this procedure, including those who have support from their doctors. Rhiannon Maher, a then 20-year-old college student was diagnosed with C. difficile in 2012: Her case, which involved terrible diarrhea, vomiting and fevers, was so debilitating she had to drop out of school and quit her job.
Her mother, Paula Peters, asked doctors to give her daughter a fecal transplant but they refused under the new guidelines. So Peters gave Rhiannon a fecal transplant herself. Using her own poop. She learned how to do it from watching “online video tutorials,” says the Huffington Post! Wow. That’s a loving mother right there. Rhiannon says the fecal transplant has helped quite a bit; She’s been able to go back to work and school.
I admire this mother-daughter duo’s tenacity, but I think it’s a shame that they had to resort to a DIY poop transplant in order to get the proper treatment for Rhiannon’s health. I don’t know much about this branch of medicine, but it seems like maybe the FDA’s regulations might actually harm more people with C. difficile than those they help, especially if at-home transplants become more common. (I doubt most people are willing to try them, but you never know). Considering that the CDC reports that diarrhea linked to C. difficile bacteria kills up to 14,000 people per year in the US, it seems like the most up-to-date treatment is something that’s beneficial for everyone.