Unique transplant cures bacterial infection in colon

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The symptoms of a bacterial infection in the colon aren't part of a polite conversation, but the novel treatment has impressive success rates.

It's remarkable to see Betty Rosier now, working on her latest quilt, when you consider the 70-year-old was recently too sick to stand.

"I wasn't tutoring, I wasn't quilting," Rosier said.

She had a Clostridium difficile - or "C. diff." - infection.

"I never realized anybody could be that weak and still be alive," she said.

C. diff. is a normally occurring bacteria in the digestive tract, but it can grow out of control when you are on antibiotics.

"When patients get antibiotics, it kills off some of the good bacteria that keep the C. diff. in check and it allows the C. diff. to take over and grow and lead to an infection of the colon that can sometimes be very debilitating," said Dr. Ateet Shah, Colon & Rectal Care Center.

Shah says Rosier's case represents an increasing trend of these infections that don't respond to antibiotics. Symptoms include chronic diarrhea and extreme fatigue.

"It's not something you want to share, you know," Rosier said.

Her options were having her bowel removed or a fecal transplant, where a donor donates a healthy stool sample.

"They put that stool in my colon. It's that simple. As I said, it's not dinner conversation, but it worked," Rosier said.

"What we do, the donor gives us a sample of stool - we generally use about 200-300 grams - then we process it. We liquefy it and mix it into about 500 (milligrams), which is a little over a can of Coke, basically 12 ounces, and then we do a colonoscopy. We get to the end of the colon and we inject that volume, which is 15, into the colon," Shah said.

"The good flora from that stool then took over in my body and replaced the bad," Rosier said.

"The success rates have been shown in studies to be 80 to 90 percent in terms of treating C. diff. It's probably the best treatment available," Shah said.

Rosher's symptoms went away quickly and gradually, she got her strength back.

"I'm back to tutoring," she said.

Though the treatment sounded unusual, the results are all that matter to her.

"There are not enough words to say how grateful I am," Rosier said.

The Colon & Rectal Care Center started offering the treatment six months ago and have treated nearly a dozen patients so far. It's relatively easy for the donor and the patient, but Shah says it was the logistics for the facility and the medical staff that was the biggest hurdle to overcome.