- Tim Spector, professor1,
- Rob Knight, professor2
- 1Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology, King’s College London, London SE1 7EH, UK
- 2Departments of Pediatrics and Computer Science and Engineering, University of California San Diego, USA
- Correspondence to: T Spector
Recurrent Clostridium difficile infection is a severe and often fatal condition, affecting up to 3000 people in the United Kingdom and 100 000 in the United States, where it kills an estimated 14 000 a year.1 About a quarter of patients experience a recurrence after an initial mild infection because treatment with antibiotics destroys the diversity of the normal gut microbes and allows C difficile to flourish.
The standard of care is antibiotics such as vancomycin and metronidazole, with or without bowel lavage or probiotics. However, a meta-analysis that included two randomised controlled trials and multiple case series covering 516 patients found an 85% success rate with a new non-drug treatment compared with only 20% success for vancomycin.2 That treatment is called faecal microbial transplantation, whereby the liquidised stool (or its cryopreserved microbial content) of a healthy donor is introduced to the colon of the patient through a nasogastric tube or the rectum. A third recent randomised trial was stopped early because of the overwhelming superiority of faecal transplantation, with 90% success rate compared with 26% for vancomycin.3 So far, such transplants seem relatively safe …