But in Australia, the rules are different. Thomas Borody is a doctor there who founded the Centre for Digestive Diseases in Sydney. He has been giving people fecal transplants for various conditions, including C. difficile infection, since the late 1980s. Early on, he was one of a handful of doctors experimenting with the procedure. “I’ve been laughed at for a long time,” he says. But he continued to perform fecal transplants anyway. He’s done thousands of them. “A lot of things are gross in medicine,” he says. People who are sick don’t care if a treatment is icky. They just want to get better.
Borody has treated illnesses called Crohn’s disease and colitis. In these conditions, the intestines swell with inflammation and may bleed. People may have diarrhea, constipation or painful cramps. Many doctors consider both conditions to be incurable. But many of Borody’s patients feel cured and stay off treatment for years. Other doctors who once scoffed at him are starting to change their minds, he says.
Still, stories from individual patients aren’t solid proof that the technique works. Researchers are still studying whether fecal transplants can help people with these conditions.