WASHINGTON (AP) - It's a low-cost treatment for a life-threatening infection. And it could cure up to 90 percent of patients with minimal side-effects -- often in a few days.
It's not a miracle drug. In fact, the treatment is profoundly simple, though somewhat icky: Take the stool of healthy patients to cure those with hard-to-treat intestinal infections.
A small but growing number of doctors have started using the so-called fecal transplants to treat a condition known as C-diff. It's a bacterial infection that causes nausea, cramping and diarrhea. The germ affects a half million Americans annually, killing about 15,000 of them.
But fecal transplants pose a challenge to the Food and Drug Administration. The treatment doesn't exactly fit into the agency's regulatory framework. It's decided to regulate the treatment as an experimental drug. The regulators have shown some flexibility in their approach, but some critics say the mere presence of government oversight is discouraging many doctors from offering transplants.
That has led some patients to seek out questionable "do-it-yourself" websites, forums and videos.