Portland woman says fecal transplant saved her life - KPTV - FOX 12

Forget the 'ick' factor: Portland woman says fecal transplant saved her life

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Sonya Mills says a fecal transplant cured her C. diff infection. Sonya Mills says a fecal transplant cured her C. diff infection.
Fecal transplants are now available in pill form. Fecal transplants are now available in pill form.

For most people, the idea of taking somebody else's fecal matter into their bodies is a repulsive one, but it's a new type of therapy that a Portland woman says saved her life.

Sonya Mills, 75, was hit with an infection of Clostridium difficile bacteria, or C. diff for short. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says C. diff kills up to 14,000 people a year.

The first sign of infection is severe diarrhea.

"I started with the four horrible events in an hour and then the next day it was every hour and the next day it was 20 times a day," Mills said. "I lost 5 pounds over the weekend. It's like having the flu on steroids. Everything hurts."

C. diff usually becomes a problem after a person goes through a round of antibiotics. The digestive tract is home to many different kinds of bacteria, both good and bad. Antibiotics sometimes end up killing off all of the bacteria, leaving an empty environment for C. diff to take over.

The usual treatment for C. diff is more rounds of even stronger antibiotics that can kill the C. diff, but the bacteria often return.

But a new treatment that's gaining in popularity is a fecal transplant, and the Bright Medicine Clinic in Northeast Portland is just one of a few places in the country that does the procedure, and they say it works 100 percent of the time.

A fecal transplant involves taking fecal matter from a healthy person and putting it in the sick patient's gut to replenish the healthy bacteria and keep the bad bacteria in check.

The thought of accepting another person's waste isn't an easy decision to make, but Mills said she kept getting sicker and she figured she had nothing to lose.

"When they talk about the 'ick' factor, I say, OK, I had a choice, whether or not I would have an enema with a man I'd never met before or whether I would die," Mills said.

Enemas aren't the only way to get a fecal transplant anymore. Doctors in Portland are some of the few in the nation who have found a way to separate the good bacteria from the human waste and then enclose it in capsules for patients to swallow. They're triple-coated so they only open up once they reach the colon.

Mills said that just two days after the fecal transplant, her symptoms were gone.

"I walked through the house saying, 'It's over! I'm better!'" Mills said.

Right now, fecal transplants are only approved for C. diff patients, but many doctors believe the procedure could someday be used to treat various inflammatory bowel disease and maybe even obesity, diabetes and auto-immune diseases.

For more information on fecal microbiota transplantation, visit http://www.brightmedicineclinic.com/.

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