Edward’s fecal microbiota transplant has 90 percent cure rate for often fatal C. diff

August 05, 2015
Each year about half a million Americans contract the dangerous infection, clostridium difficile (C. difficile). In 2014, Woodridge resident Eleanor Cain, 69, discovered she had joined that number. Her symptoms – diarrhea, abdominal cramps and dehydration – were difficult and recurring, despite therapy with two different types of antibiotic.

The U.S. statistics are alarming, showing a sharp increase in cases of C. difficile over the past 20 years. And, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control report, "Approximately 29,000 patients died within 30 days of the initial diagnosis of C. difficile. Of those, about 15,000 deaths were estimated to be directly attributable to C. difficile infections...more than 80 percent of the deaths associated with C. difficile occurred among Americans aged 65 or older."

C. difficile is most likely to cause problems in people who have been hospitalized or in a long-term care facility, and who have had an extended course of broad-spectrum antibiotics. These medications can destroy the normal intestinal bacteria that keep any overgrowth of C. difficile in check.

Fortunately, Edward Hospital offers an FDA-approved, but experimental, procedure for recurrent C. difficile – fecal microbiota transplant (FMT). With a 90 percent-plus cure rate, it’s a treatment that's increasingly being adopted by community and teaching hospitals alike. FMT involves transplanting a donor's carefully pre-screened and processed stool into the sick person's colon – usually by means of a colonoscopy.

“FMT is like giving the patient the ultimate probiotic," says Darren Kastin, MD, a gastroenterologist with Suburban Gastroenterology, Ltd. and Medical Director of the Edward Hospital Endoscopy Department.

Probiotics are "good" bacteria and other microorganisms that occur naturally in our bodies to support our digestive and immune systems, and help fight organisms that cause disease. Some people supplement this natural supply by consuming probiotic pills or foods such as yogurt.

In FMT, the stool from the healthy donor's system can help reverse the bacterial imbalance that made the sick patient unable to fight the C. difficile attack.

"If they should contract C. diff again, the transplant may enable them to reconstitute their normal gut flora on their own," says Dr. Kastin, who performed Cain's FMT in December 2014.

"Before this procedure nothing was helping. Afterward, I felt better right away and I've had virtually no problem since,” says Cain. “The idea sounded weird at first. Now I'm grateful. Dr. Kastin spent a lot of time on the phone explaining everything to me and he even thanked me for choosing him as a doctor. He's amazing."

For more information, call (630) 527-5798.