Artificial Poop Could Fight Off Stomach Infections

First Posted: Jan 11, 2013 02:21 PM EST

Researchers have created an artificial "poop" aimed at treating recurrent infections of C. difficile, a toxin-producing bacterium that causes severe stomach irritations.

The "super-probiotic" called RePOOPulate is meant to be used in place of actual human feces, a well-known therapy to combat severe diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems caused by C. difficile bacteria.

Clostridium difficile can occur when a person is exposed to the highly contagious bacteria while taking antibiotics for another infection. Since those drugs destroy healthy, protective bacteria in the gut, C. diff is allowed to overpopulate the large intestine.

The synthetic stool, called RePOOPulate, is the creation of Emma Allen-Vercoe, a microbiologist at the University of Guelph in Canada. Allen-Vercoe is also the senior author of a paper describing a study of the artificial "super-probiotic" poop that was published in the first issue of a new online, peer-reviewed science journal Microbiome on Wednesday.

Allen-Vercoe says in a press statement, while stool transplants using fecal matter from healthy people is an effective therapy for recurring C. difficile infections, they carry the risk of introducing other unknown pathogens, which potentially "puts people at risk for future disease".

"The problem is, of course, that fecal transplants are kind of primitive and disgusting," said Allen-Vercoe. "Patients don't like it. A lot of them will put up with it because they're desperate ... and donors are not terribly keen usually."

The artificial stool is made up of 33 different bacterial strains initially derived from donor stool and grown in the Robo-gut, a lab system designed by Allen-Vercoe that mimics conditions in a human's large intestine.

"The idea was we would be able to make an ecosystem that was reproducible, so it could be made for a large number of people and provided off the shelf," said Allen-Vercoe. "And (it's) obviously palatable, much more palatable than stool, and also easier to make to control."

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