You know how we all treat fecal matter like it's a toxic substance? No one wants E. coli contamination. And besides, it's gross. I mean, we all kind of tolerate it as a necessary part of life, but most of the time we just can't wait to get rid of poo.
So imagine my surprise when I read about the mom who saved her toddler's life with her fecal matter! 20-month-old Jesse Williams had been fighting a terrible intestinal infection for nine months. His doctors tried everything they could think of: Antibiotics, blood injections. He was still losing weight. Can you imagine the fear and dread his parents must have felt? There was one last, radical option: Repopulate his intestines with bacteria from fecal matter from a healthy donor -- his mom.
There have been successful fecal transplants for adults, but this was the first transplant for a young child. Doctors injected Jesse's mother's fecal matter directly into his intestines. And it seems to have worked! He hasn't been back to the hospital since and appears to be thriving with his mom's healthy, thriving bacteria growing in his intestines.
I find this sort of thing fascinating, actually. I'm reading an article right now about how important bacteria is to human life (and all life on the planet). We think of bacteria and microbes as harmful things that need to be killed off, but actually, the picture is a lot more complicated than that. We each carry around our own special collection of about 10,000 species of bacteria, most of which work for us to help us do everything from absorb vitamins to regulate our metabolism, to fight infections.
So as weird as this story seems, it makes a lot of sense to me. We need "healthy" bacteria to stay alive. And I fear that all the antibacterial junk we're constantly using may be washing away too much of the good stuff. It's a balance, obviously -- getting rid of enough harmful microbes without killing off the useful microbes. But stories like this really show how we need to completely re-think bacteria!
Did you know fecal matter could be used to fight infection?
Image via Sam Howzit/Flickr