The power of poo – how stool transplants are changing lives

Poo transplants may sound like a weird Grey’s Anatomy episode, but they’re actually the latest course of treatment for a variety of diseases being explored by the team at the Quadram Institute in Norwich. 

Your first reaction may be one of shock over how this transplant happens, and the answer is… through a nasal endoscopy tube (that’s a tube up your nose to you and me). Much less vulgar than you may think.   

You might be wondering – Who? What? When? Where? WHY? 

The technical term for these transplants is faecal microbiota transplant (FMT), the diseases it can benefit include long COVID and ME – with treatment for Clostridium difficile (C Diff) infection already in use within the NHS. FMT works with the transfer of healthy gut microbes from the donor to the recipient; these microbes helping to create a more stable gut biome and ease symptoms.   

If you’re a bit lost – don’t panic. 

Andrew Stronach, head of PR for the Quadram in Norwich, gave away a hack into understanding this process.  

“Imagine a garden, adding compost nourishes the plants – helping them thrive and get rid of the weeds. Now swap garden for gut, compost for poo and plants for your health.” 

The process?  

  1. In house donors provide the faecal matter which is checked thoroughly for harmful pathogens. 
  1. This matter is turned into a faecal slurry and sent up a nasal tube then down into the recipient’s gut. 
  1. The recipient does not see, smell or taste any of the faecal matter. 

In fact, the possible benefits of this treatment far outweigh the potty talk – helping to provide a beacon of hope for people struggling with debilitating chronic conditions.  

Dr Katharine Seton, a member of the transplant team at the Quadram revealed they hope to progress FMT so it is easily available as bacteria filled capsules – also known as poo in a pill.

These capsules would remove the physical burden of a colonoscopy for the patients, while also reducing costs on the NHS and allowing for widespread remote treatment. 

Dr Seton and the team are currently preparing for their RESTORE-ME clinical trial, assessing how FMT can have benefits for people with ME. You might expect it, but this trial is already proving to be popular. 

 “We have a waiting list of roughly 200 people” Dr Seton said. 

As well as health benefits – FMT has shown anti-ageing in mice. Improving their gut health, brain function and eyesight. Who knows, maybe in 50 years’ time we’ll be taking daily vitamin poo pills. 

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