Is artificial POO the key to curing deadly superbugs Packed with probiotics, scientists say it could kill off deadly bacteria Faecal transplants already successfully used to tackle the superbug C. Difficile as they 're-set' balance in the gut – but are not popular with patients
Scientists have developed a synthetic version called RePOOPulate which does the same job, but is safer and better tolerated by patients
16:45 GMT, 10 January 2013
17:10 GMT, 10 January 2013
Scientists have developed a synthetic 'poo' that could cure nasty intestinal infections caused by the superbug Clostridium difficile.
C. Diff is a toxin-producing bacteria that can multiply in the gut when healthy bacteria have been wiped out by antibiotics. It causes severe diarrhoea and other intestinal disease and can be fatal.
Faecal transplants may be an uncomfortable subject, but stools from healthy people have been used for some time to treat patients suffering from the hospital infection.
The bacteria from a stool transplant can effectively ‘reset’ the gut, allowing the body to overcome the infection.
Emma Allen-Vercoe looks at her stool substitute being created in the Robogut
But while the transplants have been successful, the 'ick' factor makes it difficult for many patients to accept them. There is also a small risk of passing on unknown pathogens from the donor that could later cause disease.
Now scientists from the University of Guelph in Canada have developed a substitute called RePOOPulate to replace human faecal matter.
They tested it on two elderly patients with chronic C.Diff infections, in a study published and also tested negative for the superbug six months later.
'It's an exciting finding,' said microbiologist Emma Allen-Vercoe, who developed the treatment.
Interestingly, the two patients didn't see the return of C. Diff despite taking further antibiotics later on for other infections.
Unusual experiment: The Robogut at the University of Guelph
Clostridium difficile can overtake the guts of hospital patients
The synthetic stool is made up from
33 different bacterial strains initially derived from a donor stool.
They are purified and grown in a 'Robo-gut', a complex system of flasks,
tubes and monitors that together mimic the environment of a large
The probiotic is prepared in a thick saline solution, which looks something like a 'vanilla milkshake' according to Allen-Vercoe. This is then transplanted into patients using a colonoscopy.
Using synthetic poo for transplants
eliminates the risk of transmitting an infectious disease through faecal
bacteria because 'the exact composition of the bacteria administered is
known and can be controlled,' Allen-Vercoe said.
She added that later testing of stool samples from the two patients showed some features of the synthetic stool
had stabilised in their colons.
'In other words, the introduced microbes
were able to persist,' Allen-Vercoe said.
'This is important because
most commercially available probiotics only colonise transiently.'
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