Frozen faecal matter no longer a tough pill to swallow

14 Oct 2014

The pills used in the faecal matter treatment. Image via Hohmann Labs

Often used as a treatment for bacterial infections in the intestines, faecal matter, or poo to you and me, is to be frozen and put in pills to make it easier to insert into the body.

In the last number of years, faecal matter has been introduced as a treatment for the Clostridium difficile (C.diff) bacteria, which causes severe diarrhoea in patients. Antibiotics have shown to have no effects.

However, getting this material into the patient has involved a pipe inserted into the patient’s throat, to his or her obvious discomfort.

Now, a team of researchers in the US have given the faeces a much more palatable option in the form of a pill which could be taken orally without tubing problems or the material going where it shouldn’t be going.

‘Poo pills’ relief from symptoms

Dr Elizabeth Hohmann, a staff physician in infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, has been working closely with the treatment plan and the researchers developing the pill.

As part of their trials, those receiving the treatment for C.diff were required to take 15 ‘poo pills’ a day across a two-day period and findings showed success.

Of the 20 that took the pills, 14 saw their symptoms clear up immediately while four needed a second treatment and the final two, in particularly ill health, did not see a recovery.

The biggest issue, Hohmann said, was making a pill that wouldn’t be off-putting to patients.

“When I first started doing this, I had in my mind that it would be a little red-and-white banded capsule, like a Tylenol capsule,” said Hohmann, but this wasn’t the case.

“They are sort of brownish-coloured capsules. Fortunately, because they’re frozen, when you take them out of the freezer they sort of frost up a bit and they’re not too gross.”

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic