What Is Fecal Transplantation for Ulcerative Colitis?
Fecal transplantation, or fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), is a type of treatment that transfers healthy stool from a donor into the gastrointestinal (GI) tract of an unwell recipient. It is being researched as a possible therapy option to treat the painful and persistent symptoms of ulcerative colitis (UC).1
FMT has already proved to be successful for people with a recurrent infection called Clostridium difficile (C. difficile). C. difficile is a complication that can result from antibiotic treatment. It can cause painful stomach cramping, diarrhea, and sometimes fever.
According to a 2013 study, FMT was more effective at resolving these symptoms than other methods. It is now the most effective treatment option for C. difficile.2,3
Why pursue a fecal transplant?
A fecal transplant introduces the GI tract to new and diversified microbiota, or bacteria, which can improve gut health and digestion. A healthy, balanced gut is fueled by a diverse microbiota and can make a huge difference for people with UC.1
Many things can lead to an unbalanced gut. For example, overuse of antibiotics can strip away bacteria – both the good and bad kinds. For those living with UC, a fecal transplant may help restore the proper balance of good bacteria in the gut so symptoms go away.
How do fecal transplants for ulcerative colitis work?
Fecal transplants require a healthy donor for maximum success. This donor is thoroughly screened to ensure the safety of the recipient. Screening requirements usually involve a complete medical history evaluation, as well as blood and stool testing to screen for infectious and GI diseases.1
Some reports show that using multiple donor samples – sometimes called “pooled samples” – can produce better results in the recipient. This may be due to the fact that there is more microbial diversity.1
Once a donor(s) has been screened, there are several ways of transferring the stool sample into the recipient. The most common method is through a colonoscopy. The stool sample is first liquified in a saline solution, filtered, and administered into the recipient’s colon.1
Another less common way of transferring the sample is through a nasal tube. This is a temporary tube that is placed through the nose and into the intestine. One method that is currently being studied is a capsule form of FMT. This would provide a much more convenient and less invasive option.1
What does the UC research say?
Research shows that FMTs for people living with UC show promising results. In one study, 36 percent of UC participants achieved full remission.1,3
FMT is still a very new area of research, and more data is needed. However, FMT is providing experts with valuable information about how the gut microbiota works. More data is needed before it can become a more commonplace treatment option for people with ulcerative colitis.
The more researchers understand the gut’s complex microbiome, the better equipped they can be in providing newer therapies like FMT. The studies that have been done thus far show that fecal transplantation is a promising and safe option for those with UC.
If you are someone living with ulcerative colitis and are curious about fecal transplantation, speak with your gastroenterologist. They may be able to provide more information about ongoing studies and therapy options that work for you.
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