The doctor wants to transplant what?

I’ve heard of blood transplants, hair transplants, bone marrow transplants and all kinds of organ andToilet
tissue transplants. But until this evening I had never heard of fecal transplants. They’re being used in Canada and a few other countries to treat people who suffer from C. difficile infection.

Though C. difficile can be kept in check by good bacteria in the
bowel, problems can arise when the superbug is treated by antibiotics
such as vancomycin. The antibiotics sometimes wipe out the good
bacteria but fail to completely kill the C. difficile — leaving enough
of it that it later flourishes.

"If you wipe out the normal bacteria by taking an antibiotic, then
this bug overgrows and it releases a toxin which causes severe
diarrhea," Dr. Mike Silverman, an internal medicine specialist from
Ajax, Ont., told CBC News. [Link]

How bad is the diarrhea? One Calgary woman had to visit the bathroom 40 times a day. I can’t imagine doing that. I’d run out of magazines.

Calgary physician Dr. Tom Louie, head of infection control at
Foothills Hospital, is  one of the few physicians in Canada who
treats patients with chronic C. difficile with fecal transplants, or
fecal therapy. He has done 38 procedures to date.

The procedure involves getting a close relative of the patient, such
as a sibling, to donate several days-worth of stool. Louie tests the
stool for diseases such as hepatitis and HIV and then mixes it with
saline to create liquid feces. He then administers the stool to the
patient through a barium enema.[Link]

I like the word ‘stool.’ Perhaps it shouldn’t be called a fecal transplant — it should be called furniture restoration.

Louie said the technique allows good bacteria from the transplanted
stool to reduce the number of C. difficile bacteria in the intestines
and to restore normal intestinal function.

He said the process is fairly quick.

"It takes me about an hour and I leave it in there overnight. I’m
hoping that some of these normal bugs will come and find a home, and
when they find a home it will kick out the C. difficile." [Link]

Let me get this straight: he’s bringing normal bugs into a home and they’re all sitting on stools?

Marcia Munro, a Toronto resident, received a fecal transplant from her
sister Wendy Sinukoff after suffering from C. difficile for 14 months
several years ago. 

"I had to collect stool samples for five days prior to our leaving
Toronto, and I collected it in an ice cream container and kept it in
the fridge," said Sinukoff. [Link]

An ice cream container? Please don’t tell me it was chocolate fudge.

She had to then fly the samples to Calgary so that Louie could
transplant it into her sister — a process that involved getting the
sample through airport security.
 

"My biggest fear was that my samples were not allowed to be frozen,
so I had to take them as carry-on luggage in the airplane and I was
terrified that I was going to be asked to have my luggage searched,"
she said. [Link]

Security officer: "What’s in this ice cream container?"

Sinukoff: "Uh … stool."

Officer: "You got a stool in there?"

Sinukoff: "Yes. Sort of."

Officer: "It must be a tiny stool. Why are you taking it in an ice cream container?"

Sinukoff: "Well, I don’t like other people looking at my stool."

Officer: "Why? Is it a family heirloom or something?"

Sinukoff: "Sort of. I’ve had it for a little while and now I’m passing it on to my sister."

Photo by stenbough

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

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