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Surprising Treatment for C. diff and Chemo

Surprising Treatment for C. diff and Chemo

Tomatoes were once considered poisonous -- even in Italy! -- and early pioneers were convinced that bathing was an open invitation to catching a deadly disease. But even today, there are commonly held prejudices that doctors and researchers are working to knock down. One example: Fecal-microbiota-transplant (FMT) -- or transferring a bacteria-rich stool from one person to another -- still strikes most people as a cross between a gross joke and an invitation to horrendous diseases.

But we know that properly administered FMT can cure many intestinal problems—and new research extends its usefulness. Scientists have discovered that using FMT to treat diarrhea caused by the bacteria Clostridium difficile, or C. diff is safe for anyone who is immune compromised, such as everyone receiving chemotherapy. In fact, for them, it is a great way to K.O. this life-threatening and difficult-to-treat infection!

Using FMT to cure C. diff when someone is immunocompromised has an astounding 89% cure rate and no negative side effects. This is great news for the more than 45,000 people every year who are receiving chemo and also have to battle C. diff  (up to 7% of people going through chemotherapy contract this devastating and sometimes fatal diarrhea).

Current treatments with antimicrobials can be effective, but recurrence is a problem and taking big doses of antibiotics (which destroy the healthy bacteria in the gut, too) may create another set of challenging problems. So if you or a loved one is battling cancer -- and diarrhea -- ask your oncologist about trying this innovative treatment.

Medically reviewed in September 2019.

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