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Poop Pills Used to Fight Off Deadly Gut Infection

Oct 04, 2013 09:50 AM EDT

So-called poop pills could help fight off deadly gut infections caused by the germ Clostridium difficile, replacing other forms of "fecal transplants" used to fight off the disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, C. diff is responsible for the death of some 14,000 Americans each year, with the elderly and those on antibiotics and receiving medical among those most at risk.

Fecal transplants have shown to be successful in replacing balance to the intestinal tract, but not everyone is able to tolerate the invasive colonoscopies, throat tubes or enemas used in the process.

Dr. Thomas Louie, an infectious disease specialist from the University of Calgary, told NBC he "was sitting down by myself and saying, what if it were me?" The answer he came to was pills.

In order to get the fecal matter into pill form, Louie relies on a method using a centrifuge that reduces a fresh stool down to a few teaspoons of what the scientist says "looks like peanut butter." He then pipes it into capsules.

"There's no stool left - just stool bugs," Louie told The Associated Press. "These people are not eating poop."

Speaking at IDWeek, Louie and his colleagues said they have treated 27 patients thus far. All were cured.

Margaret Corbin, 69, suffered from a C. diff infection for two years.

"It was horrible," she told the AP. "I thought I was dying. I couldn't eat. Every time I ate anything or drank water I was into the bathroom."

It has been two years since she took the pills and says she has been healthy ever since.

"At first I thought it was kind of nasty, a little gross," Shawn Mulligan, 53, told NBC. Mulligan was sick for five months before he was treated, ingesting 55 pills in two days. But, he said, "There's no smell. There's no taste."

According to Dr. Curtis Donskey from the Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, "The approach that Dr. Louie has is completely novel -- no one else has done this."

Donskey then added: "I am optimistic that this type of preparation will make these procedures much easier for patients and for physicians."

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