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Will Poop Pills Stop Deadly Diarrhea?

When doctors want to do a fecal microbiota transplant to treat Clostridium difficile, poop pills work as well as a colonoscopy.
Will Poop Pills Stop Deadly Diarrhea?
Toilet constipation

Doctors may soon be offering some of their patients with serious diarrhea a very unusual prescription: capsules filled with frozen poop from healthy people. Technically, of course, these poop pills contain bacteria in the fecal matter. These presumably beneficial bugs are used to replace the microbiota in a ravaged digestive tract overwhelmed by Clostridium difficile. C. diff is a hard-to-treat bacterium that often causes severe, recurrent diarrhea after antibiotic treatment.

Pros and Cons of Poop Pills:

A study published in JAMA found that the poop pills worked just as well as a colonoscopy for this type of fecal transplant (Kao et al, JAMA, Nov. 28, 2017). Both techniques worked to quash the C diff infection in more than 96 percent of the 116 patients who volunteered for the study.

The scientists concluded that the pills are not inferior to a colonoscopy for this purpose. In fact, they may be better. There were more adverse events in the group undergoing colonoscopy. In addition, more of those patients rated the procedure somewhat (or very) unpleasant. About two-thirds of those getting the poop pills termed the experience “not at all unpleasant.”

Colonoscopy is also somewhat more expensive than the pills. As a result, oral capsules to effect a fecal microbiota transplant seems like a promising treatment.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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