Another obstacle to greater use of the procedure has been a lack of consensus about how to select and screen donors for infectious diseases, and how to administer the treatment, which is typically blended with saline solution. In the new study, for example, Dutch doctors delivered the treatment through a tube that threaded down patients throats, but many also use colonoscopies. A study launched late last year at Massachusetts General Hospital is comparing these two methods.
The federal government is now funding a large, placebo-controlled trial led by Kelly at the Miriam Hospital in Providence. Physicians are also exploring using the treatment for other ailments. At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, doctors are waiting for final approval of a study to examine whether it could help treat inflammatory bowel disease or Crohn’s disease.
Looking into the future, some doctors believe that our increasing understanding of the microbiome, the communities of microbes that live in and on the human body, means an ideal mix of bacteria may be identified, which could one day be delivered in a pill.
“Personally I believe that in a couple years it’s going to be a matter of an oral capsule — none of these methods currently used,” said Dr. Alexander Khoruts of the University of Minnesota, who has done more than 130 transplant procedures. “We’ll be looking back at that and giggling again.”