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Faecal bacteria cocktail treats superbug infection

Feeding faeces to people with chronic infection can cure them, but who wants to eat poo? A synthetic alternative could provide a more palatable option.

Hospital superbug Clostridium difficile can wreak havoc in the guts of vulnerable people, especially those who have lost some of their protective gut flora as a result of antibiotic use. Once it takes hold, the bacteria can cause nasty diarrhoea and in some cases is fatal. The usual treatment for the infection, which affects over half a million people in the US each year, involves a strong course of antibiotics. But the infection returns in about 20 per cent of cases, and some people become chronically infected.

One treatment appears to be remarkably successful. It involves ingesting the faeces of healthy individuals – either via a tube to the stomach or colon – to help repopulate their guts with so-called good bacteria. This boosts defences against reinfection and unpleasant as it may sound, works in around 90 per cent of cases.

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