Swedish researchers hope that bacteria extracted from healthy faeces can be used to develop new medicines to battle superbugs following the successful curing of a 60-year-old American woman who suffered from resistant bacteria in her stomach, the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reported on Monday.
The woman beat the illness after doctors, following advice from Swedish researchers, administered an enema injecting the faeces of her healthy husband.
Physician Per Dahl of the infection clinic in Växjö in southern Sweden, who administers the technique to a handful of people each year, told the newspaper that the suggestion is not always met with resounding approval by the patient.
“Their first reaction is that it sounds disgusting and unpleasant to get another person’s poop put into them,” he told DN.
Doctors in Minnesota turned to the technique after they had exhausted all available antibiotics without any effect being registered on the woman’s deteriorating health.
After having been administered the enema of her husband’s bacteria-free faecal matter, the woman made an rapid recovery and immediately began to regain some of the 27 kilogrammes in weight she had lost over the previous eight months.
“It was very exciting to see if the new bacteria would grow. I examined the waste and there was an enormous difference,” said microbiologist Johan Dicksved at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) to the newspaper.
Dicksved explained that his analysis showed that after a month the offending Clostridium difficile bacteria which had caused the woman’s debilitating condition had gone, to be replaced by the new bacteria.
The method is becoming a more common feature of Swedish healthcare as cases of resistant bacteria increase, DN reported.
Around 8,000 people are diagnosed every year with the Clostridium difficile bacteria in Sweden, mostly elderly people. A number of those infected develop newer, serious bacterial infections with occasionally fatal results.
The technique is generally applied as a last resort when other cures have been tried and it is usually a healthy family member that is invited to make a donation.
The healthy faeces is then mixed with around half a litre of water and inserted into the rectum, where it is held for around half an hour before being rinsed out.
Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm are hopeful that they can use bacteria extracted from health faecal matter to develop new medicines to tackle the growing problem of resistant bacteria.