Q. When one of our sons was 9 months old, almost 50 years ago, he had earaches. At the time, antibiotics were prescribed. Soon afterwards, he developed diarrhea and became so dehydrated that he was hospitalized for IV fluid replacement. After several days, he was discharged, but within a week the same thing occurred and he was again hospitalized with IV fluids.
Our family doctor figured something odd was going on, so he checked into the literature about similar situations. He concluded that what had happened to our son was that his vital good flora, or “bugs” as he called it, had been killed off by the antibiotic. We needed to replace those “bugs.” That was done. I recall the brownish liquid that was fed him by mouth. No one said what it was, just “good bugs.” He was cured within days.
After listening to your radio show, I am guessing that what he got is what you say is done in Europe, ingesting bugs recovered from healthy “poop.” I don’t think I will tell him what it was that made him well!

A. The “yuck” factor has kept this approach from becoming widely used in the U.S. Some antibiotics kill the bacteria that normally live in the gut and keep it healthy. As a result, hostile bacteria such as C. difficile can take over, leading to persistent and potentially life-threatening diarrhea.
A recent editorial on the treatment of C diff infections stated: “Probiotic therapy ranges from the aesthetically very acceptable but probably ineffective use of probiotic drinks and supplements to the less aesthetically acceptable but probably effective fecal transplantation” (New England Journal of Medicine, Jan. 21, 2010). Thanks for sharing your experience from half a century ago.

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  1. Greg Pharmacy Student

    It just occurred to me that some antibiotics should not be taken with yogurt because of the calcium, just separate the medication and the yogurt by 2 hours and you’ll be fine.
    The prescription may be labeled, but ask your pharmacists.

  2. gmfgal

    NPR has had some interesting stories over the last couple of years which deal with the concept of fecal bacterial transplant. There was some company in California which combined harvested bacteria to use as medical treatment for all sorts of ailments. It was extremely interesting, not to mention a tad gross.

  3. Olga

    I keep hearing about fecal bacteriotherapy around, and I have specific questions if anyone can answer:
    1. Was it only conducted for C-Diff colitis cases?
    2. Was it performed during the flare-ups?
    3. Flare-ups: Bloody diarrhea.
    4. Does anyone know about Chrons cure with this treatment?
    Answer to any of these questions will help. Thanks!!

  4. sws

    How does one find out more about the fecal transplant?

  5. Greg Pharmacy Student

    The newest thing I’ve seen for C. Diff diarrhea is Kefir. Kefir can be found in some grocery stores and is a type of yogurt drink that contains probiotics that are found in yogurt in addition to several others that are not found in yogurt.
    Has anyone else seen this used?

  6. D. Jackson

    After reading about the young child who suffered from the effects of antibiotics and his bowel problems I am sending you some information I recently discovered after suffering and enduring almost five years of an embarrassing discomfort caused by a similar cause of treatment for myself.
    After looking for information on yeast infections I came across a statement about the importance of yogurt in the diet to rebalance the good enzymes and such. I was desperate – and tried it. It worked with the first container and after two days cleared up all discomfort in both the urinary track as well as the bowels. If this helps just one other person it will be worth this writing. I had never come across this information before and from now on – I’m hooked.

  7. Greg Pharmacy Student

    The fecal sample is screened for potentially harmful bacteria or other organisms. It is liquified and filtered. Bacteria are too small to be filtered. Patients are pre-treated with Vancomycin and Prilosec. To see a description follow this link: http://bit.ly/3MW588
    Bacteria are not always harmful. Bacteria in the wrong place or too many of them can cause infection. So a healthy person is likely to have healthy bacteria. Diarrhea is the body’s way of dealing with toxins or harmful bacteria.
    Medications like Imodium or Lomotil are SHOULD NOT be used in patients with C. Difficile diarrhea.

  8. dwd

    I know there is a yuck factor, but I would like to have more information on how this fecal transplant material is prepared. How is it prepared to prevent bad bacterial from being introduced? Are the needed bacteria extracted fecal matter and grown and then compounded? What is the original source of the bacteria?

  9. nick1010

    I always double up on natural yogurt when prescribed an antibiotic. While not 100 percent effective in preventing diarrhea, it surely lessens the effect of the antibiotic. I’ve tried it both ways–with yogurt and without–and believe me, the yogurt works.

  10. Greg Pharmacy Student

    Not long ago I saw man who had C. Difficile diarrhea that was treated with Flagyl (metronidazole) and Vancomycin, without any benefit for 1 week. A fecal transplant causes the diarrhea to resolve in 1 day.

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