New Cure for Terrible Diarrhea: Frozen Poop Pills

Now available frozen
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Oct 13, 2014 11:27 AM CDT
Dr. Thomas Louie, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Calgary, prepares vials in the process of making stool pills in his lab in Calgary, Alberta, Canada on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013.   (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh)
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(Newser) – Might want to put down your sandwich while you read this one: Clostridium difficile, an infection of the intestines associated with terrible cases of diarrhea, is linked to some 14,000 American deaths each year. But researchers have found a promising treatment in the form of fecal transplants, in which a sample of a healthy person's stool is transplanted into a sick person's digestive system. Researchers have conducted the process using a tube that goes through the nose and into the small intestine, but now, they may have a simpler solution, the Los Angeles Times reports: frozen poop pills.

Subjects in an earlier study received relatives' fresh stool samples, packed into capsules; 31 of 32 patients were treated successfully, researchers say. But when a patient needs immediate treatment, stool samples aren't always available—so in new research, scientists tried freezing the stuff. It was screened for disease and kept for a month before being placed in capsules; each held 1.6 grams of poop. The results: 90% of subjects experienced "clinical resolution of diarrhea." It would have been great if the pills could have been colored, like Tylenol, says a researcher; instead, they have to be acid-resistant, and acid-resistant pills are always transparent, NPR reports. But "fortunately ... when you take them out of the freezer, they sort of frost up a bit and they're not too gross," the researcher says. (In other poop-related research, scientists have learned a lot from ancient feces.)

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