At age 25, Ryan Schneider was prescribed several different antibiotics over the course of a year while seeking medical treatment for chronic pelvic pain. However, further severe symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea then developed.
Finally, after giving a stool sample, Ryan discovered he had Clostridium difficile, or C. diff. C. diff. is a type of bacteria that lives in the colon and causes chronic diarrhea, fever, weight loss, nausea, and abdominal pain, and kills 15,000 to 30,000 people every year, according to the American Gastroenterological Association. Many people with this condition have begun to receive fecal transplants, which is the process of taking fecal matter from a healthy donor and inserting it into the colon of a C. diff. patient to recolonize the good bacteria.
OpenBiome, an NGO in Medford, Massachusetts, was started to help facilitate this process. They receive and process donor fecal matter and send it out to hospitals all over the country for use in fecal transplant operations. When fecal transplants were first discovered to be so effective, many C. diff. patients began to perform them on their own at home via enema. One of OpenBiome's missions is to help give patients access to a safe, healthy way to access the procedure, so they no longer have to risk complications by doing it on their own.
One reason C. diff. cases have begun to increase so rapidly in recent years is due to the overuse of antibiotics. When antibiotics are taken for an infection, many times they end up killing off the good bacteria with the bad, leaving room for C. diff. to take over. This is also why the disease was so hard to cure in the past - regular antibiotics proved ineffective at eliminating the bacteria. Luckily, fecal transplants have a success rate of about 90%.
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For further reading on fecal transplants:
Huffington Post: C-Diff Kills 15,000 People A Year. Feces Donations May Change That
Baddest Bug: C. Diff Hits Half a Million Americans
East Bay Center for Digestive Health Website