Frozen as Good as Fresh for Fecal Transplant
Prepackaged stool samples used to combat stubborn C. difficile infections
By Dennis Thompson
TUESDAY, Jan. 12, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say they have verified the effectiveness of a quicker way to rid people of recurring C. difficile bacterial infection.
A new clinical trial has shown that frozen stool samples work just as well as freshly donated samples when treating a tough C. difficile infection through a procedure called fecal transplantation.
Doctors have used frozen stool samples to treat C. difficile for a couple of years, because the prepackaged samples allow for much easier and swifter treatment than identifying and screening a fresh donor, said lead author Dr. Christine Lee, director of the microbiology residency program at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.
"Donor screening can take one to two weeks," Lee said. "If a person requires fecal transplant right away, then that's not possible."
The clinical trial showed that patients do not pay a price for the convenience that comes with using frozen stool samples. "Frozen samples were not inferior to fresh samples. It was equivalent," Lee said.
The trial's findings are published Jan. 12 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Clostridium difficile, or C. difficile, is an opportunistic bacteria that can invade the intestines of people whose gut bacteria have been wiped out by heavy doses of antibiotics. Left untreated, it often causes life-threatening bouts of diarrhea, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Patients can struggle with C. difficile for a long time because it becomes part of their gut's microbiology. More than three out of every five people with the infection experience repeated episodes of diarrhea as they battle the bacteria, according to background notes with the study.
Fecal transplantation is emerging as the standard of care for people with recurrent C. difficile, said Dr. Colleen Kelly, an assistant professor of gastroenterology with the Women's Medicine Collaborative at Brown University's Warren Alpert Medical School in Providence, R.I.
As many as nine out of 10 patients with persistent C. difficile are cured through fecal transplantation, in which the stool of a healthy donor is introduced into a person's gut through an enema or a colonoscopy, Kelly said.