NY Times: The Battle Over Fecal Transplantation

NY Times: Drug Companies and Doctors Battle Over the Future of Fecal Transplants

This article highlights a concern that pharmaceutical companies may persuade the FDA to regulate fecal transplants similar to medications.  This will exponentially increase the cost and limit the access to beneficial human excrement. Thanks to one of my sons for pointing out this commentary to me.

An excerpt:

As pharmaceutical companies seek to profit from the curative wonders of human feces, doctors worry about new regulations, higher prices and patients attempting DIY cures…

The clash is over the future of fecal microbiota transplants, or F.M.T., a revolutionary treatment that has proved remarkably effective in treating Clostridioides difficile, a debilitating bacterial infection that strikes 500,000 Americans a year and kills 30,000…

At the heart of the controversy is a question of classification: Are the fecal microbiota that cure C. diff a drug, or are they more akin to organs, tissues and blood products that are transferred from the healthy to treat the sick? The answer will determine how the Food and Drug Administration regulates the procedure, how much it costs and who gets to profit…

Human feces, it turns out, are a potential gold mine, for both medical researchers and drug makers…

Inspired by the success of fecal transplants for C. diff, scientists are racing to develop similar treatments for an array of ailments and disorders, among them obesityautismulcerative colitis, and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases…

For now, most of the material used in fecal transplants comes from OpenBiome, the public stool bank in Cambridge …The material comes from donors who earn $40 a pop and must pass intensive screenings and regular medical checkups. “It’s harder to become a stool donor than it is to get into M.I.T.,” said Carolyn Edelstein, who runs the organization…The F.D.A. has ramped up oversight of OpenBiome’s production, leading to more rigorous testing and higher prices, which will double to $1,600 this month.

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From NY Times Twitter Feed

FMT in the “Real World”

At DDW 2016, OpenBiome presented data (abstract Su1737) from 2,050 patients who received fecal microbiata transplants (FMT) in “the real world.”

Key findings:

  • Overall, 84% clinical cure rate with a single treatment
  • 85% of patients were treated with FMT via colonoscopy (250 mL) and 15% via nasal tube (50 mL). Nasal tube administration had a lower clinical cure rate of 77.9%, compared with 85.1% who had FMT via colonoscopy.

More information on this study: “Closet Thing to Miracle Cure”: Study Confirms Benefit of FMT in C difficile  Gastroenterology & Endoscopy News July 2016  This link also presents data on use of FMT in ulcerative colitis and the use of capsule FMT.

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Lymphonodular Hyperplasia2

NY Times: “Should We Bank Our Own Stool?”

A provocative article poses the question: Should we bank our own stool?

Here’s an excerpt:

The scientific term for this is “autologous fecal transplant.” In theory, it could work like a system reboot disk works for your computer. You’d freeze your feces, which are roughly half microbes, and when your microbiome became corrupted or was depleted with antimicrobials, you could “reinstall” it from a backup copy.

That damage from antibiotics may not be trivial. Studies have linked antibiotic use early in life with a modestly increased risk of asthma,inflammatory bowel diseaseobesity and rheumatoid arthritis. These are associations, of course; they don’t prove that antibiotics cause disease…

Almost 60 years later, the “fecal transplant” is a cutting-edge treatment for the pathogen Clostridium difficile, a bug that kills 29,000 yearly and infects nearly half a million…

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York has also started a proactive stool-banking study. Most of the subjects are patients with leukemia. Before stem cell transplants, patients receive antibiotics andchemotherapy, often wiping out their microbiota…

OpenBiome…started a pilot self-banking program called “PersonalBiome.” One complication: If he stores your stool, you can generally withdraw it only to treat C. difficile, not for preventive “reconstitution.” That’s because stool is regulated as a drug and not, as with embryos or blood, a tissue, which makes its use more complex.

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Atlanta Botanical Garden, Bruce Munro Exhibit

Atlanta Botanical Garden, Bruce Munro Exhibit

OpenBiome -Nation’s 1st Human Stool Bank

From NY Times: http://t.co/LIIk4JNMfl

An excerpt:
Around noon on a recent Friday, Donor Five, a healthy 31-year-old, walked across M.I.T.’s frigid, wind-swept campus to a third-floor restroom to make a contribution to public health.

Less than two hours later, a technician blended the donor’s stool into preparations that looked like chocolate milk. The material was separated and stored in freezers at an M.I.T. microbiology lab, awaiting shipment to hospitals around the country. Each container was carefully labeled: Fecal Microbiota Preparation.

Nearly a year ago, Mark Smith, a 27-year-old doctoral candidate, and three colleagues launched OpenBiome, the nation’s first human stool bank. Its mission: to provide doctors with safe, inexpensive fecal material from screened donors to treat patients with Clostridium difficile, a gastrointestinal infection that kills at least 14,000 Americans a year.

“People are dying, and it’s crazy because we know what the solution is,” Mr. Smith said. “People are doing fecal transplants in their basements and may not be doing any of the right screening or sterile preparation. We need an intermediate solution until there are commercial products on the market.”…

The bacteria are increasingly resistant to conventional treatments. But researchers have discovered an alternative: A donor’s stool can be transplanted in the intestine or colon of a sick patient via an enema, colonoscopy or nasogastric tube. The healthy bacteria fight off C. diff and re-establish a normal community in the gut.

A study published last year in The New England Journal of Medicine found that fecal transplants were nearly twice as effective as antibiotics in treating patients with recurring C. difficile.

But where to get healthy donor stool? For doctors, it’s a tedious, time-consuming process, and some patients turn awkwardly to relatives or friends. Since September, OpenBiome has delivered more than 135 frozen, ready-to-use preparations to 13 hospitals. The nonprofit project fields dozens of requests from doctors, hospitals and patients every week. (The preparations are not sent directly to patients.) 

Carol Capps, 75, a retired nurse in Clemmons, N.C., had been in and out of hospitals for months with a C. diff infection that was not going away despite multiple courses of antibiotics. After a recurrence, her doctor suggested OpenBiome, and she received a fecal transplant. By that afternoon, Ms. Capps said, she felt like a new person and has been healthy since…

Because of the legal ambiguity, some researchers are not preparing fecal microbiota for sale (usually at cost) …

At the same time, Mr. Smith and Eric J. Alm, an M.I.T. microbiologist and adviser to OpenBiome, said the F.D.A.’s classification of fecal transplants as drugs hinders research into their possible uses to treat inflammatory bowel diseases and obesity.

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