Clostridium difficile is a menace in hospitals and nursing homes. Antibiotics can temporarily knock down the bacterium, but about 25% of infected people relapse, often multiple times, because the germ produces spores that hand sanitizers and hand washing don't kill. Antibiotics can also backfire because they kill the gut's normal microbial community, clearing the way for C. difficile to resettle. In desperation, some physicians turned to an unpalatable resource: successfully treating patients by inserting a tube into their stomachs containing ground-up, filtered fecal material from a healthy person that contains a dose of beneficial microbes. A new paper shows that cultured bacteria can replace the less palatable option of drinking someone else's poop.
Image: David Goulding