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THE WEEK — March 21: The perfect solution: feces?

The perfect solution: feces? Yes, according to two UVic medical students. And, changes in the law of family...
Fecal transplants come with an “ick” factor, but two UVic students say the procedure could be the answer to antibiotic-resistant bugs and restoring gut flora.

The perfect solution: feces?

Fecal transplants — they may be every bit as “icky” as the image conjured in your mind, but doctors have discovered the solution to overcoming stubborn infections and antibiotic super viruses may be simpler than we thought — and two UVic students aim to spread the word.

In the latest in a series of medical student presentations offered through the UVic’s Let’s Talk Science program, Island Medical Program first-year students Khatereh Aminoltejari and Jessica Nathan will discuss how fecal transplants — using the feces of a healthy individual to restore a normal, healthy mix of bacteria in someone else — can be used in place of antibiotics, and how the transplants are fast becoming mainstream medical practice for the treatment of some stubborn infections.

“Our guts contain a lot of bacteria which helps us break down everything in our gastrointestinal system. But antibiotics kill the good bacteria as well as bad, and what we’re seeing now are these super viruses that are immune to any treatment,” says Aminoltejari.

In order to serve the seven-metre long intestine, 6-8 tablespoons of stool are mixed into one litre of saline solution. Particulates are removed, and the solution is then placed into syringes and applied either as an enema, or through the nasal gastric tube — yes, through your nose.

Aminoltejari says that potential stool donors are identified by recipients, generally an intimate partner or adult family member. Just like in blood transfusions, prospective donors are screened to determine eligibility — a high enough bacteria count — and are tested for diseases like HIV, hepatitis, parasites and infections. Donors are excluded if they’ve taken antibiotics within 90 days of the procedure.

“What’s so exciting about this is that it is such a natural answer,” says Aminoltejari. “It does have that ick factor, but this is very similar to a blood transfusion and when we’re seeing people being treated with antibiotics for problems that occurred from using antibiotics, we know there has got to be another answer.”

Fecal transplants date back historically to a practice in veterinary medicine. Vets discovered that horses with infections unresponsive to other treatment would respond quickly and effectively to the transplants.

Then, in 1956, doctors began successfully utilizing the transplants on humans in an effort to replace gut flora from severe infections. While the practice has become prevalent in the U.S. and Europe in treating aggressive infections like C. difficile, Canada is slowly catching up. Now, Aminoltejari says scientists are studying the effects of the transplants on conditions from Irritable Bowl Syndrome to obesity, and even autism.

“We have more bacteria in our bodies than we do human cells, and we are coming across an era of antibiotic resistance that has left us with not a lot of arsenal in our pockets. This really is the perfect solution — but more people do need to be aware of it as an option.”

See “Fecal Transplants: Strange or Miracle Cure?” with Khatereh Aminoltejari and Jessica Nathan, Wed., March 27, noon-1pm at UVic’s Medical Sciences Building (Room 160, Ring Road). Admission is free and everyone is welcome.

Changes in the law of family

The term “family” has changed drastically in the last 34 years — a fact that the province of B.C. officially recognized this week when the new Family Law Act came into effect Mon., March 18, replacing the old Family Relations Act which had been in rule since 1979.

“The Family Law Act is about addressing the needs of modern B.C. families and adapting to shifts in society,” says Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond. “Most importantly, it’s about ensuring children’s interests and safety are given the utmost priority when families go through the emotional process of separation and divorce.”

While the act has a strong focus on children, it also clarifies how property, debt and assets are to be divided in the event that common-law couples break up (See Editor’s Note for more details).

The act was passed unanimously in B.C.’s legislature on Nov. 23, 2011. Changes were stimulated by the fact that common-law families in B.C. are growing at a rate four times faster than the number of married couples. There was also a noted rise in the number of children born in B.C. using assisted reproduction.

Navigate through the changes: M