Synthetic Faeces Created to Cure Nasty Gastrointestinal Infections

Artificial poo has been developed in Ontario, Canada at the University of Guelph to cure victims of Clostridium Difficile, a toxin-producing bacteria that causes nasty gastrointestinal infections.

With the introduction of broad-spectrum antibiotics in the second half of the 20th century, cases of Clostridium Difficile infections rose.  When a patient takes a broad anti-spectrum antibiotic, the healthy bacteria in the gut and intestines, known as ‘gut flora’, is wiped out. If the Clostridium Difficile bacteria are present, they will overrun the gut, releasing toxins that cause infection, bloating, fever, and severe diarrhoea and abdominal pain.

A very small percentage of adults have Clostridium Difficile bacteria naturally present in their gut and intestines, while other victims accidently ingest spores while they are patients in hospital, or at nursing or mental facilities, as Clostridium Difficile bacteria is resistant to routine cleaning methods. The spores can remain outside of the human body for extended periods, so that is why patients in medical areas are often accidently exposed. Annually, Clostridium Difficile infections kill 14,000 people in America. Rigorous cleaning practices need to be implemented to kill the bacteria, which includes wiping down surfaces with a diluted bleach solution.

A Poo Cure?

So how is synthetic poo the answer to curing this nasty infection? The answer is through Faecal Bacteriotherapy. I suggest if you don’t have a strong stomach, stop reading know. There are some things you just don’t want to know.

Faecal Bacteriotherapy, more commonly known as ‘stool transplant’, is used to treat and cure victims of Clostridium Difficile infections.

The procedure involves finding a close family member to the patient and getting them to provide a poo sample. This sample is then tested for multiple bacterial, viral, and parasitic pathogens. If the sample is deemed healthy, it is mixed with milk or saline, and then delivered into the patient’s gut and intestinal system. The deliver method is either through an enema, or a nasogastric tube, which is a tube inserted into your nose and down into your gut.

The procedure allows for the healthy bacteria in the stool transplant to re-establish in the gut, and increase the patient’s natural resistance to infection. While the success rate is around 90%, as you can imagine, there is often resistance from the patient due the awkward and unpleasant nature of the procedure.

PooCredit: Wikimedia

Fake Poo to the Rescue!

Created by microbiologist Emma Allen-Vercoe, the synthetic poo, called ‘RePOOPulate’ aims to act as a replacement for human faecal matter used during the stool transfer procedure.

Allen-Vercoe developed super-probiotic from purified intestinal bacterial cultures grown in special laboratory equipment at the University that mimics the environment of the human intestine.

During testing and researching, two patients who suffered from chronic Clostridium Difficile infections were given the RePOOPulate transplant. After the treatment, both patients were symptom-free within three days and tested negative for Clostridium Difficile bacteria six months later.

Besides offering an effective therapy against Clostridium Difficile infections, the artificial poo is also safer and stable, as well as adaptable because the exact composition of the bacteria being transplanted can be controlled. Using the synthetic poop also eliminates the risk of transmitting an infectious disease through faecal bacteria, as sometimes human faecal matter can contain unknown pathogens. This artificial method can be easily modified to suit individual patient needs, is easily reproduced, and is more appealing to many patients and physicians.