Bacterial infection stock image.

MN Impact: Researchers Develop a New Treatment for Clostridium Difficile

August 30, 2018

Objective

Microbiologists partner with medical researchers to help develop innovative medical technology that cures patients.

Issue

Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) is a dangerous and debilitating bacterial infection of the intestine that affects about 500,000 people annually--causing about 29,000 deaths--in the United States.

What has been done

U of MN microbial ecologist and microbiologist Michael Sadowsky (Ph.D.) partnered with U of MN gastroenterologist Alexander Khoruts (MD) to develop a new treatment for C. difficile called fecal microbiota transplantation (FTM). The treatment replaces the gut microbiota in a sick patient with that from a healthy donor.

The team helped to standardize the approach, which has origins in ancient Chinese medicine and developed an easy-to-use capsule form of the treatment.

Results

A University-based C. difficile study with 49 patients had a cure-rate of 89 percent and private companies, non-profits and gastroenterologists across the country are now adopting the treatment in their own studies.

Researchers believe this could just be the beginning of developing treatments based on microbiota therapeutics, which is also being explored to treat conditions including autism, obesity, diabetes and ulcerative colitis.