POO transplants could “cure Covid” after a study found a patient’s symptoms disappeared in two days.
Scientists think using stools to treat the virus should be explored, after having some luck with victims of the bug within hours.
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Stool transplants helped some patients recover quickly from CovidCredit: Getty – Contributor
Stool transplant, or faecal microbiota transplant (FMT) as it is formally known, aims to restore a healthy range of microbes in the gut (the microbiome) to boost the body’s immune response.
Researchers published a letter recommending the treatment option in the journal Gut – after it seemed to supercharge some patients’ immune systems.
They used the procedure in two people to prevent the recurrence of a different bacterial infection – but also stumbled upon some success with Covid by chance.
As well as being infected with Clostridioides difficile – bacteria that can infect the bowel and cause diarrhoea – both patients also happened to be infected with Covid-19, the symptoms of which cleared up rapidly after the stool transplant.
The first case involved an 80 year old who had pneumonia and sepsis (blood poisoning) on top of recurrent C difficile infection.
Symptoms which matched coronavirus, including fever, were confirmed by a positive swab test.
He was given a stool transplant, remdesivir and plasma containing antibodies to SARS-CoV2, the virus responsible for Covid-19 infection.
Unexpectedly, two days after the transplant, his Covid-19 symptoms cleared up without his pneumonia getting worse.
The second case involved a 19-year-old with a form of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis), treated with immune suppressant drugs.
This patient was treated with antibiotics and given a stool transplant.
Fifteen hours later, he developed suspected Covid, confirmed by a positive swab test.
But following his treatment, other than two isolated episodes of fever, his Covid symptoms cleared up without being given anything specific for them.
The authors wrote: “Our main conclusion from these cases is that [stool transplant] appears safe and of comparable efficacy in treating recurrent [C difficile infection] in patients with coexisting Covid-19.
“A further more speculative question is whether [it] may impact the clinical course of Covid-19.”
Both patients had risk factors for severe Covid-19 infection, yet both patients experienced only mild disease, “with one possible explanation being that [stool transplant] mitigated more adverse outcomes, potentially through impacting microbiome-immune interactions,” they suggest.
These patients represent just two cases, making it hard to draw definitive conclusions on the effectiveness of stool transplant to treat Covid-19 infection.
But the authors added: “These data let us speculate that gut microbiome manipulation may merit further exploration as an immunomodulatory strategy in Covid-19,” they write.
They plan a clinical trial to find out if stool transplant added to standard Covid-19 treatment might help stop the infection in its tracks.
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