Fecal matters

Intrepid woman is basically the pioneer of the controversial ‘poop transplant’ treatment

Catherine Duff (IDSA)

Catherine Duff, an Indiana native, will always remember the moment doctors told her there was nothing more they could do to save her life from Clostridium difficile (C. diff), a bacterial infection that can cause colitis — a potentially life-threatening inflammation of the colon. Fortunately for her, and potentially thousands of others, there turned out to be an apparent cure for her condition — a poop transplant. Duff talked about her remarkable story for an in-depth report by BuzzFeed News on the controversial procedure

She’s also written and talked on camera about her ordeal and in the past. In an essay for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, Duff, 61, described how doctors had to remove a third of her colon after her first C. diff infection. But after the surgery, she said, her pain only “became worse.” An abscess, it turned out, had burst. After another surgery, she was put on antibiotics only to develop C. diff once more as the drugs killed off healthy bacteria that would otherwise prevent the potentially deadly bacterium from growing. Over the next six years, says Duff, she contracted C. diff six more times.

“Each time it was worse and took longer to recover,” she wrote. “Eventually I couldn’t work. For months at a time I had diarrhea up to 30 times a day. I was bedridden and lost almost 70 pounds. I developed a fast heart rate and my kidneys started failing.”

When she caught C. diff for the seventh time in April 2012, the strain was resistant to antibiotics. After doctors tried — and failed — to treat her, they told her “to say my goodbyes to my family.”

But Duff and her family weren’t ready to call it quits yet. After hearing of an experimental treatment called fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) — a procedure that the FDA has banned doctors from performing in any case except for those of C. diff since 2013 — from an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, Duff decided to give it a shot. Doctors refused to perform the procedure, so the intrepid Duff did at home herself using a fecal sample donated by her husband.

“Within four hours,” Duff said, “I almost felt normal. If I hadn’t experienced it myself I wouldn’t have believed it.”

Duff has since founded the Fecal Transplant Foundation to raise awareness about the potential life-saving potential of the treatment, and help patients like herself navigate the tricky terrain and obstacles to obtaining the treatment themselves.

And it’s not only sufferers from C. diff who have been benefiting. In Tampa, Florida, the procedure is being used to regularly by a doctor who is violating FDA regulations, but has yet to face any legal action. It turns out, as BuzzFeed News notes, that there are many ailments that people believe are remedied by poop transplants. And some desperate mothers are finding the procedure to have a healing effect on a condition that affects scores of American children.

Watch video of Duff below talking about her condition.

Read the full story at Buzzfeed News.


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