Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Donor feces

I've been reading a lot about clinical trials lately. The press tend to make too much out of small effects that may not mean very much and a great many of our drugs, even well known and very popular ones, are little better than a placebo.

In any double-blind clinical trial the results are monitored by an outside body to ensure, for example, that any dangerous side-effect of the drug or treatment, is noticed and the trial can be stopped. In rare instances they also decide the drug, or treatment, is so successful that they also stop the trial so that everyone can benefit. When they do this it's usually a good sign the researchers are onto something big.

That's what happened in one of the first clinical trials of fecal transplants published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine:
Duodenal Infusion of Donor Feces for Recurrent Clostridium difficile

There's a description of the issue and the research at Wired's Superbug blog. They link to an NPR article that describes the work of a Canadian team to come up with synthetic feces called RePOOPulate.

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