Don't pooh-pooh faecal transplants for C. diff superbug infections

Frozen stool banks should be set up around Australia so that all patients with difficult-to-treat infections with the superbug Clostridium difficile have access to faecal transplants, say gastroenterologists.

Clostridium difficile infection is a bacterial infection of the digestive system, characterised by diarrhoea and fever. Clostridium difficile, or C. diff for short, is called a superbug because it's resistant to many antibiotics and is difficult to treat.

Faecal transplants may sound unsavoury, but with a cure rate of 81-94% for recurrent Clostridium difficile infections, it is vastly superior to traditional antibiotic therapy, the Gastroenterological Society of Australia argues in a new position statement.

As a result, stool banks should be set up in at least one public hospital per state and territory to allow storage of pre-screened frozen faecal samples from healthy volunteer donors.

Faecal transplants have been carried out via enema, colonoscopy or nasogastric tube, to introduce the donor faecal material into the patient.

The Gastroenterological Society said obese people should be excluded from donating because of the risk of transmitting obesity — a phenomenon that has been observed in animal studies.

A 2013 study published in Science found that transplanting faecal microbiota from obese humans to lean mice resulted in the lean mice gaining weight. And there is the case of a C. difficile patient in Canada who rapidly became obese after receiving a faecal transplant from her morbidly obese daughter.


1. Gastroenterological Society of Australia. Position Statement. Gesa position statement on faecal microbiota transplant (FMT).
2. Ridaura VK et al. Gut Microbiota from Twins Discordant for Obesity Modulate Metabolism in Mice. Science 6 September 2013: Vol. 341 no. 6150 DOI: 10.1126/science.1241214
Australian Doctor