The main theme of this year’s 30th Anniversary ARCH Conference is the gut microbiome, with our keynote speaker, Dr Mark Davis, lecturing on fecal microbiota transplantation or FMT. But what exactly is FMT, what conditions can it be used to treat and what are the benefits of FMT over more conventional treatments?
What is FMT?
FMT, sometimes known as a stool transplant, or fecal enema, uses the fecal matter of a healthy donor to replenish the gut microbiome of a patient who is suffering from an infection that has disturbed their own bacterial balance. The donor fecal matter is normally mixed with saline and then strained before being placed into the recipient’s colon via an enema, colonoscopy or endoscopy. In some cases, the stool is preserved by freeze-drying and given as a capsule for the patient to swallow.
What can FMT treat?
FMT is 85%-90% effective in treating Clostridium difficile infections in cases that have not responded to antibiotics, with most patients showing a significant improvement after just one treatment. FMT is also being investigated as a treatment for other gut problems, including colitis, constipation and IBS, as well as neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.
What are the benefits of FMT?
Not only is FMT treatment of C.diff infections highly effective, it is also cheaper than the antibiotic medicines, such as Vancomycin, which are currently used. Unlike antibiotics, which can often strip the gut of ‘good bacteria’ while fighting infections, FMT actually replenished these microbes, restoring the natural gut microbiome and enabling the body to fight the infection in the way it was designed to. Perhaps more importantly, with antibiotic resistance a growing problem in modern medicine, FMT offers an alternative to antibiotic use, reducing the high exposure levels that are prevalent with traditional treatments.
Where did the idea come from?
Using one person’s feces to treat another may seem like a strange thing to do, but it is not a new concept. Like all the best medical treatments, the idea of FMT has been around for thousands of years, and was used instinctively by early doctors based on their own observations and experiments. Its use was mentioned in the 4th century by Chinese doctors as a cure for food poisoning and the associated diarrhoea, with records talking of a yellow soup made from fermented stools. On the other side of the world, Bedouins have used fresh camel feces as a cure for dysentery for centuries.
The first formal description of FMT as a modern medical procedure came about in 1958, but the idea has only gained popularity in the last few years, with the US Food and Drug Administration only granting approval for FMT as an experimental treatment in 2013.
Want to know more?
If you are a practicing colon hydrotherapist, or a therapist in a related field, you can find out more about FMT by joining ARCH at our conference in Birmingham on June 10th and 11th. Not only will we have two keynote lectures from Dr Mark Davis, who is a world authority on FMT, we will also be joined by Dr Simon Goldenberg from Guys / St Thomas’ Hospital, who will be explaining the latest British research on FMT and C.diff. You can find out more about the conference and book your place online by clicking here.