Stool capsules could replace fecal transplants, say Finnish researchers

Fecal transplants involve transferring stool from a healthy donor into the gastrointestinal tract via the colon of someone suffering from gastrointestinal problems, such as antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

Perttu Arkkila, chief gastroenterologist at Helsinki University Hospital, told Yle that his team is now evaluating whether frozen or dried stools are best suited for the capsules.

“It’s important to investigate whether the contents of the stool capsules really cure disease, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Capsule contents will initially be delivered to patients via colonoscopy. If it works, we can move on to capsules,” Arkkila explained.

Finnish researchers say they hope stool capsules will offer relief for a variety of ailments in the near future, including neurological problems, such as chronic headaches.

“I believe that capsules can help relieve depression symptoms, as some fecal transplant patients have reported a positive change in their mindset,” said Perttu Arkkila.

In the future, according to Arkkila, travellers could as a precautionary measure harvest their own stool ahead of a trip in case they return home with a case of travel diarrhea.

“People who come down with stubborn cases of travel diarrhea could take a capsule to restore their regular gut flora,” he explained.

Initial scientific findings on the efficacy of stool capsules are due within the next year. Should results show promise, stool capsules may be administered in out-patient care, as patients would no longer need keyhole surgery for an injection of healthy gut bacteria.

Arkkila pointed out that databases of stool donors will have to be carefully maintained as fecal transplant therapy evolves.