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Friday, 9 May 2014

Faeces cure? Don’t pooh-pooh it

A FAECES transplant may smell –and sound like an odd cure – but it can potentially be used to treat common ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome if it catches on.

Two patients at the National University Hospital (NUH) have already found welcome relief.

Healthy bacteria from a donor’s faecal matter were used to help restore their digestive systems to full health earlier this year.

Patients who typically require this treatment are those who have been put on strong antibiotics, which kill all but the most resistant bacteria.

But the surviving bacteria can cause problems, from frequent diarrhoea to ruptured intestines, and even death.

NUH sees 20 to 30 cases of such gut infections every month.

Only about two-thirds of patients respond to conventional treatment methods, and even then, the problem may recur.

While the faecal procedure is common overseas, NUH doctors say it has not caught on here due to the “yuck factor”. For, of course, the first step is to collect stool from donors – which is more complex than it sounds.

Donors must pass a health screening and this is “as strict as that for the usual organ transplants”, said Dr Calvin Koh, a re­­gistrar at NUH’s gastroenterology and hepatology division.

Then, the collected matter is processed to extract the “good bacteria” and rid it of undigested food, and put into the patient’s intestines via a tube.

Civil servant Chan Xiu Li, 24, could not help uttering “Holy s***” when told of the treatment, but would not refuse it. “Why not? I want to live.” — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Tags / Keywords: Regional , ST


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