Sex, Drugs, and Public Health

January 30, 2011

Poop Therapy

Filed under: Uncategorized — cbmosher @ 8:51 pm

Jim, a healthy, muscular thirty year old, took antibiotics for – – – well, something. Something relatively minor, as I recall: bronchitis or an ear ache.

Unfortunately for him, the antibiotics wiped out, among other bacteria in his body, the normal bacteria that lived in his gut, where they helped him digest his food. I saw him in the Emergency Room with cramping, miserable diarrhea, including blood. That almost always gets the patient’s attention.

Jim had Pseudomembranous Colitis – an inflammation of his gut caused by a new bacteria moving in where his “normal flora” used to reside. It’s actually, a relatively common complication of antibiotic use. And a fairly serious complication.

So, how do we fix this problem? It may not surprise you to hear that, in this society of ours, the treatment for this problem caused by antibiotics is – – – to give more antibiotics. Different antibiotics. Expensive antibiotics. And cross your fingers.

Now, some people, thinking in the right direction, try to replace the “good bacteria” by eating yogurt, kefir, and other potential sources of bacteria. This approach has not been an overwhelming success for several reasons.

But now, taking the same thinking a little further, we have a new therapy that I learned about at a medical conference in San Francisco. It’s called “Fecal Transplant,” or, for those either squeamish about the words or into New Age cures, “Human Probiotic Infusion.”

The vision you’re imagining right now is probably exactly correct.

“You need two things,” the professor of Medicine elaborated: “a donor, – – – and a blender.”

How creative. How logical. How frustrating to the pharmaceutical companies.

For those of us who specialize in Prevention, the problem of Pseudomembranous Colitis from antibiotics is just another warning (along with increasing bacterial resistance) that we’re WAY overusing antibiotics.

And that form of drug abuse is coming back to bite us.

Question your doctor whenever (s)he prescribes antibiotics, to be sure it makes sense to you, before you put that drug into your body. Jim will be doing that, probably for the rest of his life.

 

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