Though fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) has been shown to offer relief to many patients with gastrointestinal ailments by replenishing levels good bacteria that medications can subdue or flush away, the actual procedure can be pretty invasive. Common methods include colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy, both of which can require preparation, sedation, some recovery time, and risks. But a new innovation—which aims to achieve the same effect of restoring a healthy gut microbiome—might totally streamline the process of FMT: Soon, patients may only need to swallow a pill.
In a new study published in JAMA, researchers found getting a fecal transplant in pill form is just as effective as enduring a colonoscopy—especially for those dealing with bowel infections brought on by the potentially-deadly bacteria Clostridium difficile—AKA C. difficile or C. diff—which infects half a million people in the US every single year, typically killing 15,000 in the process.
“It’s absolutely insane. We just don’t see this kind of efficacy with drugs.” —Dina Kao, MD
“It’s absolutely insane. We just don’t see this kind of efficacy with drugs,” study author Dina Kao, MD, told Newsweek. “C. difficile is the single biggest cause of diarrhea in a health-care setting. It is our public enemy No. 1 in hospitals.”
But it may not be a public enemy for long. Based on the study results, swallowing a donor’s excrement in pill form offers the same effectiveness as invasive procedures. And, not only is the experience much more pleasant, but it’s also quicker and cheaper: According to one source, a fecal transplant via colonoscopy typically costs about $900 while the capsule is around $300.
Really though, having a happy, healthy gut is basically priceless.