Synthetic “poop” as a treatment for C. Difficile published in new journal Microbiome

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A new treatment for superbug Clostridium difficile is published today in the launch issue of Microbiome. Canadian researchers have developed a “super-probiotic”, a synthetic stool called the RePOOPulate, as an alternative to stool transplantation. The RePOOPulate is composed of 33 different bacterial strains isolated from the stool of a healthy 41 year old female at the University of Guelph. The bacteria were purified on agar plates, identified by rRNA sequencing and then pooled together in fixed ratios to form the RePOOPulate.

A pilot study was conducted at Kingston General Hospital, Canada, where the RePOOPulate probiotic was inoculated into two female patients in their 70s, both of whom had severe C. difficile infection and had not responded to antibiotics. After treatment with the RePOOPulate, both women showed normal bowel movements within 3 days, with no detectable C. difficile and no symptoms at their last evaluation, six months after treatment. Crucially, the gut microbiome of the two patients now closely matched the bacterial composition of the RePOOPulate, showing that the probiotic had become established.

C. difficile infection causes many gastrointestinal problems, including severe diarrhea, and often leads to outbreaks in hospitals and long-term care facilities. Fecal bacteriotherapy can be used to restore the normal gut flora in those infected with C. difficile, which often occurs after antibiotic treatment. Using synthetic poop for transplants eliminates the risk of transmitting an infectious disease through fecal bacteria because “the exact composition of the bacteria administered is known and can be controlled,” said Elaine Allen-Vercoe, the senior author of the study.

This pioneering research was published today in the launch issue of Microbiome. This new journal reflects the growing need to study microorganisms and their function in their natural environment, their microbiome, whether that environment is the human body, an environmental niche or any other habitat.

Microbiome is edited by Jacques Ravel, University of Maryland and Eric Wommack, University of Delaware, together with a prestigious international editorial board including leading interdisciplinary scientists from academic centres, private and environmental research centres and federal agencies.