TAMPA - Poop.
It's a stinky subject.
We flush it down the toilet without thinking twice.
But what actually comes out the other end is no stinking matter.
Doctors say these bacteria do wonderful things, things that can cure our bodies from superbugs. There are hundreds of different kinds of good bacteria in our bowel. The same type of bacteria or probiotics you find in yogurt.
But would you be willing to take someone else's human waste and put it in your body? For Ellen Blackwell it was a no-brainer.
“It saved my life," she said. "I was dying."
Ellen was so sick she couldn't eat for almost a year. All she could stomach were crackers and water. “Not being able to go out and eat at all was really punishing."
Ellen had a life threatening form of bacteria called C-dificil. C-dificial is resistant to most antibiotics.
Ellen says, “At the end of 2010, I was taking $7,000 a month in antibiotics. I wasn't able to eat at all. I lost a significant amount of weight. I was very, very sick."
Doctor Sudhir Dutta works at Sinai hospital in Baltimore. “There is a group of patients where really nothing works and these patients have diahhrea which is absolutely relentless."
Treatment options are slim. Either remove your colon, or risk death.
But Doctor Dutta was willing to try something radical. Something that had never been done before at his hospital. A fecal transplant. “Dealing with stool has never been a pleasant thing, nobody wants to talk about it, nobody wants to look at it."
But results can be lifesaving. "It really makes a difference in the lives of these patients." The only thing Ellen needed was a donor. “The people who can donate the stool sample are generally children or spouses."
That's where Catherine, Ellen's daughter stepped in. “I'm thinking this is a really good idea. We have all this bacteria in our colon, it's like a super probiotic, it's pretty cool. Everything was dependent on when I could show up at the hospital with the sample so I just brought it down to the lab."
Dr. Dutta says, “It was really smooth sailing, so we got it in there."
All that was needed in the lab to prepare the sample was a simple kitchen appliance.
The stool was then poured through coffee filters to purify it so only the good bacteria would be transplanted.
Nurse Belinda Mason says, “It's poop. It smells like poop. Then you figure you actually have to introduce it to the patient, so we had to go through the mouth, run it through the whole colon."
For Ellen, it was well worth it. “I wanted to eat food within 24 hours, I felt normal."
Ellen is glad to be cooking again, whipping up tasty meals with her new found appetite. Catherine is just happy to spend time in the kitchen with her mom and enjoy meals together. “Catherine and I now have bacteria in our guts that matches like a fingerprint."
A perfect match coming from an unlikely source.
The procedure is pretty common in Canada and Europe, but not yet here in the US, because it hasn't gone through rigorous medical testing.
Tampa Doctor Patrick Brady, with USF and Tampa General Hospital, says a fecal transplant took place in our area a few years ago but it's not done as often because treatment with antibiotics usually works. And there are potential side effects such as the potential to transmit disease.
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