Could a POO transplant treat Covid? Two infected men in Poland saw their virus symptoms clear up rapidly after procedure
Poo transplants could treat Covid, scientists believe after two infected Polish men fought off the virus after the grisly procedure.
Medical University of Warsaw doctors performed the transplant on the men for their C difficile infection. Coincidentally, they both had coronavirus.
Both their symptoms of the virus disappeared within days, prompting the experts to speculate that the procedure could be a treatment.
Doctors are now planning a clinical trial to find out if poo transplants may help stop the infection in its tracks.
Poo transplants, or faecal microbiota transplants, aim to restore a healthy range of microbes in the gut to boost the body’s immune response.
It involves transferring a processed mixture of liquid stool from a healthy donor into the patient’s intestines through an endoscopy that enters the body through the anus, according to the NHS.
The 80-year-old and 19-year-old men are the only two cases the doctors studied, so they are not sure whether it was the transplant that cured their Covid infection.
But they speculated changes to the patients’ gut microbiome benefited the immune system, leading to less severe Covid and a speedier recovery.
Doctors in Poland gave two men faecal microbial transplants (FMT) to treat clostridioides difficile infections, but they also happened to have Covid and recovered quickly from the virus. The main symptoms of clostridioides difficile are diarrhoea, fever, a loss of appetite, feeling sick and stomach pain
WHAT IS A FAECAL MICROBIOTA TRANSPLANT?
A faecal microbiota transplant (FMT) is the transfer of stool from a healthy donor into the intestines of a patient.
WHAT CAN IT TREAT?
It is most commonly used to treat a Clostridioides difficile infection – spread by bacterial spores found within faeces. It is 90 per cent effective.
It can also be used to treat gastrointestinal conditions such as colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and constipation – but success rates are much lower.
FMT can replenish bacterial balance as it acts like a probiotic, with samples of faeces often containing up to 1,000 different species of bacteria.
HOW IS IT PERFORMED?
The transplant is done via tubes – inserted into the nostril, down the throat and into the stomach – or directly into the colon.
However, the faecal sample can also be transplanted through enemas or pills containing freeze-dried material.
IS IT SAFE?
There have been reports of patients showing unexpected weight gain after treatment, bouts of vomiting and even abdominal pain.
However, the long-term safety and effectiveness of FMT is relatively unknown, and researchers have called for more studies to determine the risks.
Doctors said in a study, published in the journal Gut, that they gave two patients a FMT, who coincidentally had Covid and were not yet showing symptoms.
The men required the procedure to treat clostridioides difficile, which is a bacteria that can infect the bowel and can cause chronic diarrhoea.
Patients either get antibiotics to kill the bacteria, an FMT, or in rare cases a section of their bowel may need to be removed.
The researchers concluded FMT appears to be a safe treatment for Covid patients, but said it is unclear whether the procedure worked because symptoms can vanish on their own for the majority.
Both patients were at risk of getting severe Covid because the 80-year-old man had several underlying conditions, while the teenager was immunosuppressed, meaning he struggles to fight infections.
But both of them only experienced a mild infection, so the doctors think the poo transplant could have mitigated the virus.
The older patient received the stool transplant because he had pneumonia and sepsis, as well as clostridioides difficile.
Two days after the transplant, his Covid symptoms had disappeared.
Although doctors noted that he also received coronavirus drug remdesivir and an antibody treatment – both of which might have helped.
The teenager also recovered quickly from the virus, despite not taking any treatments for it.
The doctors said two other cases have been reported where people with the virus have had the poo transplant, and those patients also rapidly recovered from Covid.
The experts speculated that changes to the patients’ gut microbiome benefited the immune system, leading to less severe Covid and a speedier recovery.
They said they will begin recruiting participants for a clinical trial that will compare normal care with people who also receive a poo transplant.