Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Good news for C. diff patients: The "Poop Pill" arrives.

Way back in December 2013, I introduced my readers to OpenBiome, a start-up formed by a couple of MIT graduate students who had a new concept for Fecal microbiota transplant (FMT), which is now recognized as an effective cure for C. difficile patients.

In March of this year, I reported from one of the founders:

We've experienced rapid growth and are working with over 230 hospitals in 43 states and have provided treatments for over 2800 recurrent C. difficile patients at this point. 

We have also been testing and developing an encapsulated formulation that should reduce procedure related costs and risks for treatment of C. difficile, while enabling long term maintenance therapy for the investigation of chronic conditions where a single dose is unlikely to provide lasting benefit. 

Now it looks like that approach is going well. Gabrielle Emanuel at the Commonhealth blog reports:

Fecal transplants may have just gotten a lot easier to swallow.

OpenBiome, the nation’s first stool bank, is beginning large-scale production of a poop pill. This week marks the first time such a pill will be commercially available to hospitals and clinics.

Early tests suggest the pill is highly effective and comparable to traditional, more invasive delivery methods — for instance via colonoscopy, enema or a plastic tube through the nose and into the stomach or intestines.

Developing a pill that would not dissolve because of what it was delivering was the engineering task faced by the company.

After about a year and a half of work and testing, researchers at OpenBiome came up with something they’re calling the Microbial Emulsion Matrix (MEM).

Basically they’re taking the poop and suspending it in oil. The oil prevents the water from dissolving the capsule. Then, they freeze the capsule. This doesn’t kill the bacteria but it does make them inactive, stopping them from breaking down the capsule. Only once the pill is inside the gut does it break down — this time from bacteria on the outside, instead of on the inside.

I'll be looking forward to future chapters from this innovative group of folks, who are working on a very important health problem

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