More Details on Drug-Resistant E coli Transmitted by Fecal Microbiota Transplant

In June 2019, the FDA delivered a warning about the potential danger of transmitting drug-resistant E coli with fecal microbiota tranplantaion (FMT).  (FDA Warning for FMT)

A report on this issue has now been published: Z DeFilipp et al. NEJM 381: 2043-50, editorial M Blaser pgs 264-6.

The authors describe two patients, a 69 year-old with cirrhosis and a 73 year-old sp stem cell transplantation, who developed bacteremia due to transmission of a drug-resistant (extended-spectrum beta-lactamase [ESBL]) E coli following FMT which was delivered by oral capsules. The latter patient died from sepsis. The two patients had a genomicly-identical strain isolated that was also found in the donated aliquot.

In the commentary, a couple of important points:

  • “Up to now, the complications have been infrequent [from FMT], and for recurrent C difficile infection, the benefits of FMT clearly outweigh the risks; however, as the use of FMT is broadened and more compromised patients are treated, complications may be more frequently observed.”
  • “In the short term, improved and uniform screening of FMT material is needed to reduce the risks.”

My take: Both of these patients who became developed bacteremia were at risk for more severe infections.  However, we need to remain aware that severe complications can and do occur with FMT.  In context, though, there are risks of severe complications from routine use of antibiotics as well.

Frontenac Hotel, Quebec City