Antibiotic-resistant C. Diff infection, FMT and the microbiome

Antibiotic-resistant Clostridioides difficile infection, or C. diff, is a life threatening condition that until recently had a high mortality rate. C. diff infection causes the patient to suffer from debilitating diarrhea, and in some cases, leads to extreme ulcerative colitis (inflammation of the large intestine) which, if not successfully treated, can lead to death.

Although the standard treatment for C. diff is antibiotics, oftentimes it is the use of antibiotics in a patient in the first place that allows the C. diff bacteria to gain a foothold in the gut. This is because antibiotics tend to indiscriminately destroy both “good” and “bad” bacteria, alike. It is this disruption of “good” bacteria that is theorized to open the door for C. diff to take hold. Once the healthy gut microbiome is disrupted, opportunistic infections like C. diff become more likely.

Historically, a course of antibiotics was sufficient to halt a C. diff infection. However, due to modern society’s overuse and misuse of antibiotics, certain strains of C. diff have developed that are resistant to antibiotic treatments. This form of multidrug resistant C. diff is considered a “superbug” and can be deadly to patients since it is impervious to traditional therapies.

To combat this superbug, doctors have turned to fecal microbe transplants (“FMT”) which involve the transplantation of a healthy donor’s stool into the gut of a patient suffering from C. diff. It is theorized that the introduction of a donor’s healthy gut flora into a patient with a previously unhealthy gut flora restores the patient’s gut microbiome to a more “normal” state in which C. diff can no longer thrive. Incredibly, 84% of patients who receive FMT for C. diff are healed by the procedure.