Good bacteria from human feces could help cure diseases 糞便好菌可望治百病 古代中國就在用

Sun, Mar 04, 2018 - Page 9

The use of feces in medical treatments – what was called “yellow dragon soup” – is documented as early as the Eastern Jin Dynasty in ancient China. Li Shizhen’s Compendium of Materia Medica, written in the Ming dynasty, for example, records that a liquid preparation using fermented feces, fresh fecal suspension and children’s excrement could be used to treat severe diarrhea, fever, vomiting, and constipation.

There are well over 1,000 types of bacteria to be found in the human gut, but a course of antibiotics will often kill all intestinal bacteria, regardless of whether it is good or bad, leaving only the highly resistant strain clostridium difficile. This bacteria is difficult to kill even with the strongest antibiotics, and can cause protracted bouts of diarrhea.

Doctors overseas have been treating clostridium difficile infection (CDI) using the method of human fecal flora transplantation for over a decade now. This technique involves taking feces from the gut of a healthy individual, processing it, and then transplanting the fecal flora into the patient’s gut, restoring a healthy balance of the intestinal microbiota.

There have been over 200 cases of fecal flora transplantation around the world, predominantly in North America, Europe and China. There have also been several successful cases of the treatment in Taiwan, and the medical sector here wants it to be offered more widely, but as the relevant legislation is not yet in place, whether hospitals can use it to treat patients remains something of a gray area.

For future applications, the technique is being seen as a major area for biotechnology research, and could be used to treat not only CDI but also in cancer immunotherapy and the treatment of conditions such as diabetes, liver disease, depression and epilepsy.

(CNA, translated by Paul Cooper)