The People's Perspective on Medicine

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.
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.

Rate this article
4.5- 24 ratings
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. .
Tired of the ads on our website?

Now you can browse our website completely ad-free for just $5 / month. Stay up to date on breaking health news and support our work without the distraction of advertisements.

Browse our website ad-free
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.

Showing 6 comments
Add your comment

Fecal transplants have been used for many years now, with great success, for C.diff, as well as ulcerative colitis (although this is not as recognized). Because people think it sounds gross, they may not seek this remedy, but the material (poop) has been thoroughly sanitized. C.diff is a deadly condition, especially for seniors. Why go through a colonoscopy when this would work as well?

What about constipation? Will these pills help?

This has been known to be beneficial for many years, but the FDA has held up the use of fecal transplants or pills. it also seems to work for weight loss if you get transplant from naturally thin person.

This sounds like an excellent treatment, and I’m all for it. Whenever I need an antibiotic (which thankfully has been very seldom), I also take a good probiotic and eat raw fermented foods every day that I am taking the medication. Actually I do that every day anyway. Healthy gut bacteria is so important to good health. Antibiotics kills off your gut bacteria, except for c.diff which is antibiotic tolerant, and that’s why it can take over so quickly. Just this week it killed a lady who was a leader in a cause important to me (and many others). Yet, antibiotics are prescribed and over-prescribed, and I wonder how many read the warnings on the enclosures when they pick up a prescription. That small print specifically warns about the possibility of c.diff as a side effect.

My dad got C. diff from an antibiotic, and it hastened his death. This is such good news!

Sounds like they are really on to something simple. This is if the poop pills contain only bacteria, and are isolated obviously from the donor’s blood, dna ect. You do not want to get your body altered with a future problem from the donor. There is a lot of waste and many other items in people’s feces. They really have to isolate the bacteria really needed very carefully, and specifically.

* Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^