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FDA warns against poop transplants following E. coli death

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One person has died from an e. coli infection stemming from a poop transplant, and the US government is warning it could happen again.

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday published a bulletin warning against possible complications from fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), which has been rising in popularity for the treatment of C. diff, a debilitating gut infection.

“The agency is now aware of bacterial infections caused by multi-drug resistant organisms (MDROs) that have occurred due to transmission of a MDRO from use of investigational FMT,” the FDA said.

“Patients considering FMT to treat C. difficile infection should speak to their health care provider to understand the potential risks associated with the product’s use.”

Dr. Sahil Khanna, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic who performs fecal transplants, told NBC News that it’s likely the first death from an FMT procedure.

Still, the procedure can work just as well as traditional antibiotics in treating C. diff, which the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates infects 500,000 patients every year, many of which relapse soon after. In patients over 65, nearly 10% died from the infection.

“Recently, fecal microbiota transplantation has been shown to be effective in the treatment of recurrent C. difficile infection,” a study in the New England Journal of Medicine said in 2018. The trials showed FMT worked just as well as antibiotics for treating C. diff.

“This was a small trial, but the results suggest that fecal microbiota transplantation may be an alternative to antibiotic therapy in primary C. difficile infection,” the authors wrote.

Read more: uBiome convinced Silicon Valley that testing poop was worth $600 million. Then the FBI came knocking. Here’s the inside story.

But following the recent death and sickening of one patient, the FDA is warning more protections and donor screenings are needed to prevent others from contracting infections from MDRO’s.

“Patients considering FMT to treat C. difficile infection should speak to their health care provider to understand the potential risks associated with the product’s use,” the FDA said.

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