You know from reading this site that "fecal microbial transplant" (FMT), which involves transplanting stool from a healthy person into the intestines of a sick person, has revolutionized treatment of a dangerous condition called "C. diff colitis." It has also been proposed as a possible avenue for benefiting many other human health conditions. Millions of dollars are being directed toward FMT and microbiome research, and some are even self-administering FMT! In the case of C diff, FMT has saved many lives. Sadly, it has now been associated with the loss of a life.
The FDA issued a statement this week noting that two people became very sick, and one died, after receiving FMT. The two patients, who both had impaired immune systems, received stool from the same donor, who was not screened for a certain antibiotic-resistant bacteria before the procedure.
I contacted the gastroenterology group in Jackson, MS, with whom I have ongoing FMT research (writing a paper currently!). They, like many providers, ONLY transplant stool from OpenBiome, a nonprofit stool bank in Cambridge, MA. OpenBiome's website responded to this news with the following June 14, 2019, statement:
"OpenBiome screens for antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including the bacteria involved in a recent safety alert from FDA. OpenBiome did not provide the FMT connected to the event, and we are servicing providers as usual."
This terrible report highlights the very reason why, while it is tempting to get ahead of ourselves, it's so important to be careful and patient with new ideas and technologies. The "experts" I've talked to don't think this will dampen enthusiasm for trying to beneficially alter the microbiome, but they agree that it serves as a sobering reminder of the importance of, as one email response said, "oversight and rigor."
Read yesterday's NPR's report HERE.