Fecal microbiota transplantation: Uses, questions, and ethics

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Medicine in microecology


Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) has rapidly grown in notoriety and popularity worldwide as a treatment for both recurrent and refractory C. difficile infection (CDI), as well as for a myriad of other indications, with varying levels of evidence to justify its use. At present, FMT use in the U.S. has not received marketing approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but is permitted under "enforcement discretion" for CDI not responding to standard therapy. Meanwhile, the rising interest in the gut microbiome throughout mainstream media has paved the way for "do-it-yourself" (DIY) adaptations of the procedure. This access and unregulated use, often outside any clinical supervision, has quickly outpaced the medical community's research and regulatory efforts. While some studies have been able to demonstrate the success of FMT in treating conditions other than CDI-studies on ulcerative colitis have been particularly promising-little is still known about the treatmen's mechanism of action or long-term side effects. Likewise, screening of donor stool is in its early stages in terms of protocol standardization. In this paper, we explore the regulatory and ethical concerns that arise from the need to balance access to a nascent but promising innovative treatment with the need for research into its efficacy, risk profile, and long-term impact.

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