Q. I suffered with unrelenting diarrhea caused by a C. diff infection that was not fazed by powerful antibiotics. My insurance company spent thousands of dollars on my treatment, but still the diarrhea came back immediately after I stopped the meds.
I finally wound up in the hospital, and a gastroenterologist prescribed vancomycin and Flagyl. When that didn’t work, he said that since I needed a colonoscopy, he would do a fecal transplant at the same time.
My husband was the donor. First his blood and stool were tested to make sure he was not giving me anything bad. After the colonoscopy, I never had diarrhea again.

A. Thousands of people die every year from complications of Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections. Antibiotics like clindamycin can kill off beneficial bacteria in the colon, allowing C. diff bacteria to take over. The resulting diarrhea and dehydration can be life threatening.
C. diff is extremely difficult to treat. As you discovered, the infection often comes back once the medicines are stopped. A new study from the Netherlands has confirmed that repopulating the gut with healthy bacteria is far superior to antibiotics in treating this infection (New England Journal of Medicine, online, Jan. 16, 2013).
“Poop transplants” from healthy donors can be accomplished through colonoscopy, enemas or a tube passed through the nose into the small intestine, which is the technology that was used in the Dutch study. This helps in some small way to blunt the “yuck” factor, though that is still pretty strong. Nonetheless, when lives are at stake, effective treatments are to be applauded, even if they are distasteful.

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  1. Colleen M.

    Your input is a ray of hope for me. But what is kefir and where do I find it? I’ve been on 2 rounds of vancomycin over the last 2 months and the cdiff has returned. It makes more sense to me to rev up my immune system than to continue to treat with antibiotics. Hope there is some way to get info from you. Thanks

  2. wendy

    FOS, FructoOligoSaccharides, is food for the probiotics.
    I’m seeing people on here who, on their doctor’s advice, are taking antibiotics to “solve” the problem that antibiotics caused. S Isbister is more to be trusted than these doctors. If the problem is that the colon has lost it’s beneficial flora, then the solution is to replace those flora. I can’t imagine why someone would prefer to have feces inserted, rather than purchase a good probiotic/FOS supplement and take it until the beneficial flora are restored.
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: Thank you for the explanation of FOS.
    As for the probiotics, a reasonable trial makes a lot of sense. But if for some reason the probiotics don’t work, it is helpful to know there is a backup plan.

  3. eve

    Clindamycin antibiotics prescribed for extraction @ 150mg 4 times a day. I told her that I could not take penicillin and that I had already been on 3 courses of antibiotics for tooth infection.
    I could not finish the treatment, nausea, stomach pains to extreme, low mood, little no appetite. I am still suffering. I have a very clean diet, organic foods, mostly vegetables with little meat do not smoke rarely drink alcohol.
    I am in the uk – help

  4. Lloyd Sharp

    What is FOS?

  5. S Isbister, MD

    Those who struggle with recurrent C Dif. will find that taking a simple, over the counter probiotic yeast will enable the C Dif to actually die and not return!
    The original brand which paved the way, Florastor, is well known. I learned of it from the Chief of Gastroenterology, a wise, kindly old-time doc. Believe it or not, C Dif was not a big deal in this hospital! It was treated and gone. Even with chemo patients!
    Reason it works is that there is a biofilm on the colon wall, behind which some CDif can hide from the antibiotics. the rest is killed, but this is a reservoir that enables it to return. Being a probiotic yeast, Florastor foams up, and displaces the CDif into the main channel where it is killed by the antibiotic.
    Remember, normal probiotic flora needs to be restored. It is responsible for 70-80% of your Immune system. So keep taking the probiotic yeast as you recreate your ideal gut flora. And start the Florastor whenever taking antibiotics to prevent any C Dif recurrence. My Father in law had chronic C Diff till he had a stroke, and I became his advocate. He hasn’t had it since. 8 years later, and he is 89. Now in assisted living, all it took was a guarantee that he’d get it again without Florastor to make them quite willing to prescribe it. I’d like to use the normal probiotics, but couldn’t get them to do that. Those at home will not have this problem.
    Incidence of C Dif is a an outcome that is tracked in hospitals and care facilities. It is also contagious in such environments. The treat of a recurrence without this works very well, when in any care facility! Those not in such a facility will be able to find a less expensive version of it at the health food store.

  6. Karin P

    This is completely astonishing to me — trust doctors to come up with a “surgical” procedure when a simple glass of real cultured kefir, with billions of probiotic organisms in 30-50 families of beneficial yeasts and bacteria, will solve this overnight. Fermenting your own healthy foods is truly the way to stay out of the doctors’ office. But, sorry, you won’t get the same effect from something in a gel cap at the health food store.

  7. Mariellen Gilpin

    The terms fecal transplants, or stool transplants, are perhaps adding to the yuck factor unnecessarily, and limiting acceptance of the concept. Why not call them “intestinal flora replenishment” instead?

  8. leslie e.

    I suffered with c. diff after antibiotic treatment for infection. I took probiotics and ate yogurt when I had ALMOST lost my mind, 3 weeks. I called gastro dr., had stool cultures done c. diff was my problem. There is an antibiotic for this…. difficid BUT is very expensive, my copay was $1345.00. Humana picked up the rest, 2,200$. BUT it worked. I was about to lose my mind for 3 weeks. It was awful, did not have the cramping but the potty time was unbelievable. Get to the doctor….

  9. wendy

    Thanks for your reply, but I’m still not understanding. Why wouldn’t a person with this problem just buy some top-of-the-line probiotics and FOS, and swallow large amounts of them regularly, to re-establish the good flora? Why wouldn’t you try that, before going through these expensive procedures?

  10. GWR

    Had C-diff for months – after colon surgery
    GI specialist – titrated meds over several weeks and it worked along with Pharmacy provided extra strength acidophilus
    never returned

  11. wb

    The doctor just told me I may need this if the c diff comes back. I have had it 3 times. This last time it took 6 months of Vancomyin (twice) and Flagyl. The Flagyl seems to have worked but it made me very sick while I was on the medicine. I have been symptom free for over a month.

  12. wendy

    Why can’t one replenish the good bacteria with probiotics and FOS?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: Some people have had success with probiotics, but in others the condition appears to be too extreme.
    What is FOS?

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