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Summary

Background

Management of recurrent Clostridium difficile-associated disease (CDAD), particularly in elderly patients, remains clinically challenging. Faecal transplantation (FT) may restore normal microbiota and break the cycle of recurrent CDAD.

Aim

To critically appraise the clinical research evidence on the safety and effectiveness of FT compared with standard care in the treatment of patients with CDAD.

Methods

A comprehensive literature search was conducted by a research librarian to identify relevant studies published between 2000 and 2011. The Cochrane Library, PubMed, EMBASE, CINAHL, Biological Abstracts, BIOSIS Previews and Web of Science were searched using the following Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) terms and keywords, alone or in combination: Clostridium infections/Clostridium difficile/pseudomembranous/colitis/faeces/rectal/colon flora/gastrointestinal/nasogastric tube/enema/donor/transplant/infusion/bacteriotherapy/human probiotic infusion. Methodological quality of the included case series studies was assessed in terms of patient selection criteria, consecutive recruitment, prospective data collection, reporting of lost to follow-up, and follow-up rates.

Results

No controlled studies were found. Based on the weak evidence from seven full-text case series studies of 124 patients with recurrent/refractory CDAD, FT appears to be a safe and effective procedure. In most cases (83%) symptoms improved immediately after the first FT procedure, and some patients stayed diarrhoea free for several months or years.

Conclusions

Although these results appear to be promising, the treatment effects of faecal transplantation cannot be determined definitively in the absence of a control group. Results from randomised controlled trials that compare faecal transplantation to oral vancomycin without or with a taper regimen will help to better define the role of faecal transplantation in the management of recurrent CDAD.