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Fecal transplants offer relief from digestive issues

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Medical breakthroughs occur in Houston nearly every day. But this story involves one of the strangest breakthroughs we have ever heard. It's a little gross, but "good" bacteria from human waste is being used to make sick people well again.

Annette Melancon is healthy after being sick for a year. She had a fecal microbial transplant. Yes, a fecal transplant. Her family's reaction?

"They kinda were a little grossed out," Melancon said.

"And for you? You didn't have any ick factor?" we asked.

"Not at all, because I was at the point where something had to be done," she said.

A.J. Ragusa is about to undergo the same thing.

"Well I said, boy I just don't know if I want to do that. I had to really think about it," Ragusa said.

Ragusa and Melancon both have a debilitating intestinal infection called clostridium difficile, or C. diff, that causes months, even years, of diarrhea. But the 10-minute fecal transplant changed her life and the lives of the others in this St. Luke's UTHealth study.

"Within five days, 90 percent will be well for the first time in years," said Dr. Herbert Dupont, who's conducting the study.

"Good" bacteria from feces is transplanted to the sick patient during a colonoscopy. The real goal isn't to do a fecal transplant but to take the bacteria, put it in a powder and put that in a pill so you lose the "fecal" part and just get the bacteria transplant.

"This bacteria, if it's good and healthy, keeps the level of immunity at a level where you prevent infections. You stay healthy, you stay happy," Dupont said.

They believe the fecal transplant may help people with ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and inflammatory bowel disease too.

"You know Christi, it looks to me like a miracle!" Dupont said.

For Melancon, it was a miracle, a medical miracle from an unlikely source.

"I just really thank God that he's placed me in the hands of these doctors," she said.

Find Christi on Facebook at ABC13-Christi Myers or on Twitter at @ChristiMyers13

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