Canadian medical researchers have developed synthetic poop — dubbed “RePOOPulate” — to cure a deadly gastrointestinal infection. “It’s an exciting finding,” said Emma Allen-Vercoe, a professor in the University of Guelph’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.
In a study published in Microbiome, a BioMed Central (BMC) publication that launched its first issue this week, the researchers found that the synthetic poop cured gastrointestinal infections caused by an antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as Clostridium difficile.
The researchers tested RePOOPulate on two patients with treatment-resistant C. difficile infections. The two patients were both symptom-free within three days and had no signs of infection six months later.
The toxin-producing bacteria naturally resides within the gut of some people and others are infected from the environment. Clostridium difficile can overrun the colon when antibiotic medication kills off healthy gut bacteria. In the worst cases, the infection causes severe diarrhea, fever and perforation of the intestines.
The infections, which are linked to 14,000 American deaths each year, have been successfully treated with stool transplants, which re-establishes the normal bacterial community of the gut. The procedure, however, is less than ideal. Besides the obvious “yuck factor,” a stool transplant can introduce new viruses and other pathogens to the patient.
“That puts people at risk for future disease,” Allen-Vercoe explained. By using RePOOPulate, “the exact composition of the bacteria administered is known and can be controlled,” she said.