If the clostridium difficile bacterium becomes over-abundant in a person’s colon, the results can include gastrointestinal problems such as severe diarrhea. Ordinarily, c. difficile populations are kept in check by the usually-present beneficial gut bacteria. If those “good” bacteria are killed off as a side effect of taking antibiotics, however, the nasties can take over. The treatment? Well … it often involves having another person’s stool implanted in your gut via enema. Yikes. Fortunately, a less icky treatment is in the works, that involves the use of a “synthetic poop” known as RePOOPulate.
The reason that feces are implanted is because they contain beneficial gut bacteria from the donor – the idea is that those bacteria will replace those that were killed off by the antibiotics. Unfortunately, there’s also the risk that they could contain disease-causing pathogens that get passed along to the recipient.
Emma Allen-Vercoe, a microbiologist at Canada’s University of Guelph, is part of a team that set about creating a more hygienic alternative to regular feces. The resulting RePOOPulate is made from purified intestinal bacterial cultures, that are grown in the university’s “Robo-gut” – a set-up that simulates conditions within the large intestine.
Because the synthetic poop’s exact composition and bacterial content are known and controllable, it is said to eliminate the risk of disease transmission associated with traditional stool transplants. The substance is reportedly easy to produce, and can be tailored to particular patients’ needs. Of course, it also has less of a “yuck” factor.
I guess the health store “Bottle of Bugs” doesn’t work as well for some people as it does for me. Whenever I’m facing a course of antibiotics – as I recently did as part of prep for dental surgery – I just started taking the bugs in parallel with the prescribed antibiotics. Kept it going afterwards for a spell and functioned normally through the whole process.
Of course, they’re not bugs. They’re the culture of living organisms found in most traditional yogurt – but, lots more of them.