‘Poop pill’ promises cure for gut infections

In a novel medical advancement, researchers at the University of Calgary have developed a ‘poop pill’ that promises cure for the persistent Clostridium difficile infections.

Hitherto, the difficult-to-treat C. difficile infections were cured with fecal transplants. The stool samples culled from healthy person were mixed with saline to make a slurry. The cocktail was then infused into the gut of the patient, either through an enema bag or via a nasogastric (NG) tube inserted in a nostril down into the stomach.

Once done, the fecal transplant helped regain the person’s natural gut flora, an imbalance that promotes C. difficile bacteria to flourish and cause persistent and lifestyle-limiting diarrhea.

But now Dr. Tom Louie, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Calgary, has created the ‘poop pill’ which will provide the essence of fecal transplants, but without the expensive and invasive procedures.

The poop pill
The poop pill is a handmade, customized pill that contains the ‘good bacteria’ required to restore the balance of the gut bacteria.

Like fecal transplants, the pill is also made from the stool of a healthy donor. The sample is processed in the lab to flush out the food and extract the bacteria. It is then infused in a triple-coated gel capsule that doesn’t dissolve until it reaches the intestines.

“There’s no stool left – just stool bugs. These people are not eating poop, and there are no smelly burps because the contents aren’t released until they’re well past the stomach,” Louie said.

Explaining the course of the treatment, Louie said, “Days before starting the treatment, patients are given an antibiotic to kill the C-diff. On the morning of the treatment, they have an enema so the new bacteria coming in have a clean slate.”

Louie has tested his ‘poop pill’ on 27 patients, with 100 percent results. Unfolding the results on Thursday at IDWeek, an infectious diseases conference in San Francisco, Louie said, “all had suffered at least four C-diff infections and relapses, but none had a recurrence after taking the poop pills.” Also, “nobody’s thrown up. And nobody’s complained of belly pain.”

Being hand made and customized, mass production of the pill is not possible, Louie noted. “Because not everybody’s going to have the ability to set up to start manufacturing capsules on site. And it’s got to be on site, because the donor’s on site. And it’s got to be done fresh. So it can’t be mass produced and shipped all over, at least at this point,” he said.

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