FDA cautions about mortality risk with fecal transplant

As per FDA two patients received donated stool that had not been screened for drug-resistant germs, leading it to halt clinical trials until researchers prove proper testing procedures are in place.

Both transplants came from the same donor’s fecal matter. The report does not state whether the fecal material was given in liquid form as an infusion into the digestive tract or swallowed as pills.

Other samples from the same donor were tested after the patients got sick. The samples were found to harbor the same dangerous germs found in the patients, known as multi-drug-resistant organisms. They were E. coli bacteria that produced an enzyme called extended-spectrum beta-lactamase, which makes them resistant to multiple antibiotics. The stool had not been tested for the germs before being given to the patients.

Fecal transplants have come into increasing use to treat severe intestinal disorders, particularly an infection caused by a bacterium called Clostridium difficile, which can be deadly and tends to occur in hospitalized patients who have been heavily treated with antibiotics. The idea behind the transplants is to use stool from a healthy donor to restore the normal balance of bacteria and other organisms in the intestine, the microbiome.

The FDA on Thursday issued a warning to researchers that stool from donors in studies of fecal transplantation should be screened for drug-resistant microbes, and not used if those were present. It is also warning patients that the procedure can be risky, is not approved by the agency and should be used only as a last resort when C. difficile does not respond to standard treatments.

This is especially pertinent for countries like India, where the patient may be exposed to infection with drug-resistant bacteria and the source of infection cannot be found. Efforts should be made to trace the source of infection in all cases of sepsis. This will help in better management of patients.

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