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Poop transplant - A really good example of why we need to see our bodies as complex ecosystem and why bacteria are so important to our health
Posted: 01 February 2012 06:41 AM   [ Ignore ]
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This weeks Science Talk podcast has a very good discussion on a new and evolving concept in medicine.. Using bacteria to restore our natural bioflora in order to treat disease.

As many of you may have heard along the way, our bodies are home to more bacterial cells than human cells. We are outnumbered 10-1 by bacterial cells in our own body. There are literally thousands of different species and we are only beginning to understand what function they play in our bodies. For many years we have viewed bacteria as the enemy and to some extent that is true but its an entirely over simplified view of the real world. Some of the bacteria that live in and on our bodies are harmless. Some are essential in that they produce vitamins or essential amino acids. Some are harmful, but its even more complex than that. Some are beneficial in certain places or harmful in others or important in combination with certain other bacteria and dangerous with others. Our ecosystem is at least as complex as a rainforest ecosystem.

Antibiotics and diet can affect our ecosystem but we really don’t have good data on how. There is a huge amount of research that needs to be done yet in this area. The odds are that these bacteria have evolved with us over millions of years and I wouldnt be the least bit surprised as we learn more that we find out many of these baceteria may even produce hormones and other substances that control important bodily functions for us.  I think someday we are going to be thinking about the bacterial inhabitants of our body as another organ and perhaps the largest and most important organ in our bodies.

The podcast is about some work being done to transplant feces from healthy people to people who have had their gut flora disturbed by antibiotic treatment resulting in an infection with a bacteria called c.difficile which is often very difficult to treat. They have reported very high success rates compared to existing treatments but they also discuss some of the practical and regulatory difficulties with studying and using such an unusual treatment.. ie. The FDA doesn’t know how to regulate it because its not a drug, its not an appliance or a device and this deters researchers from using it in studies because it puts them at risk if the FDA hasn’t set guidelines.

Anyway if you can get past the yuck factor its actually pretty interesting.

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Posted: 01 February 2012 07:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I have heard about this a while ago. But what do you mean we don’t understand our ecosystem? Activia, for example, who makes probiotic yogurt understands it very well.  grin

BTW, macgyver, the length of your title of this thread makes it look like something that was published in the 19th century. But I like it.  wink

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Posted: 01 February 2012 08:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90Fh5al8aPY&feature=related  It is rather…..unusual isn’t it?  BTW, watch this movie - it deals with feces and quackery in a big way! grin

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Posted: 01 February 2012 08:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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That was a great podcast. I can’t imagine doing this “transplant” with a home kit, however. With such complexity to fauna, how would a layman know whether someone else’s poop didn’t have another bad bacteria? And people were doing this in the 50’s??? Wow! It had to be a chocolate milkshake.  wink

I hope big pharma doesn’t get greedy with this when they come out with their artificial poop.

Thanks again macgyver. We are lucky to have you here!

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Posted: 01 February 2012 09:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Yeah, I don’t think this is something you should try at home. Aside from the yuck factor, there are some harmful organisms that can be transmitted by stool ( Hepatitis B and C, Polio, Pathogenic bacteria like e.coli, shigella salmonella etc, not to mention parasites) so the donor would have to be screened very well prior to accepting a sample. There also needs to be more work done on the best part of the GI tract to instill the specimen into. Its not clear if it works as well when you just inject the sample into the rectal vault which is about all you can do at home.

I agree that letting the pharmaceutical companies control this procedure might not be desirable but unfortunately if you want to get a uniform and safe treatment it may be necessary to have someone produce a product that has been purified and certified to be free of pathogens. It’s also well known that not everyones bioflora is the same. In fact it varies so much that I have heard it said that each person has a unique combination of bacteria that is almost as unique as your fingerprint. It may turn out that different “recipes” would have different uses and benefits in different people. It really is a very complicated but interesting area of research although you need a good supply of clothespins to work on it and you may not get invited to many dinner parties.

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Posted: 01 February 2012 09:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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George - 01 February 2012 07:13 AM

I have heard about this a while ago. But what do you mean we don’t understand our ecosystem? Activia, for example, who makes probiotic yogurt understands it very well.  grin

BTW, macgyver, the length of your title of this thread makes it look like something that was published in the 19th century. But I like it.  wink

Activia is actually a great example of corporate America taking advantage. They have latched on to the concept involved in this idea but they have oversimplified the subject and wildly exaggerated the claims. There is very little evidence that their product actually works. In fact they were the subject of a law suit and had to change the wording of their advertisements because of this. Its not clear that adding a small amount of one or two bacterial species in the small amounts found in Activia to the gut has any beneficial effects. Its sort of like going to a 100 acres of clearedand burned rain forest and saying you can restore it to its natural state by sprinkling 5 anacondas and a couple of tucans around

As an example, the very infection that Stool transplants work so well at treating don’t respond at all to acidophilus supplementation. Acidophilus is the main bacteria in active yogurt cultures.

Companies frequently pull this nonsense though.They take a grain of scientific truth and the distort it and manufacture some useless product which the marketing peopl create a lot of hype for.

[ Edited: 01 February 2012 09:33 AM by macgyver ]
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Posted: 01 February 2012 09:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Right. Dannon settled a $35m class action lawsuit for false advertising re. activia: see HERE.

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Posted: 01 February 2012 12:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Of course this will bring an entirely new meaning to “That’s some really good shit, man!” rolleyes

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Posted: 01 February 2012 12:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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traveler - 01 February 2012 12:26 PM

Of course this will bring an entirely new meaning to “That’s some really good shit, man!” rolleyes

Oh, you’ve done it now! The possibilities are virtually endless…

“Say, doc… I really need to score some good shit…. can you help a guy out?”

“That’s it! I’m not taking any more of her shit… the last batch made me sick!”

“I need to take a shit…. no really, I need to TAKE a shit.”

LOL

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Posted: 01 February 2012 12:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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That last batch was just stems and seeds.
That shit’s expensive.
I need to move some shit.
...

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Posted: 01 February 2012 01:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Oh so that’s what they meant by the YUCK factor…yuck , yuck yuck tongue laugh

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Posted: 01 February 2012 05:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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How many bacterium does it take to fix a gut flora imbalance? A shitload.

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Posted: 01 February 2012 05:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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domokato - 01 February 2012 05:18 PM

How many bacterium does it take to fix a gut flora imbalance? A shitload.

LOL

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Posted: 01 February 2012 06:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Very good, domokato! LOL

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Posted: 20 February 2012 01:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I’m a mom who has a child with autism. I can see the Biomed movement pushing this on their kids. It gives me the chills.

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Posted: 20 February 2012 06:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I’ve actually had to do that procedure for patients. Usually a patient with a small or large bowel transplant. We were trying to recolonize the bowel. We used the patient’s stool from their ostomy bag, and slowly infused it through a tube inserted into their jejunum. The patient didn’t ‘taste’ anything, the odor was not bad, because bacteria gives the stool its odor, and bacterial growth is what we are trying to encourage. Yes, the ‘yuck’ factor is there for the nurses too…

...but that is pretty much the only reason I can think of that such a procedure might be necessary..

[ Edited: 20 February 2012 06:06 PM by asanta ]
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