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Disgusting science: Fake poop offers cure for uncontrollable diarrhea

Though childish songs make crude jokes, there’s nothing funny about diarrhea. Aside from the painful, twisting feeling in your guts, there’s just something psychologically upsetting about losing control of your bowels. It’s embarrassing. It’s disgusting. And we’ve all been there.

But for many, diarrhea is more than a shameful stain to be washed away in an impromptu laundry load; in the US alone, more than 500,000 suffer and 15,000 die every year from uncontrollable diarrhea caused by infection with Clostridium difficile. These rod-shaped bacteria are commonly found in the environment and even in our bodies, but have lately become a major concern in hospitals where antibiotics leave patients without the natural flora that protect their bodies. When C. difficile populations grow unchecked, toxins produced by the bacteria cause inflammation and cell death, leading to the explosive symptoms that, if not controlled, can lead to severe dehydration, kidney failure, holes in the intestines and death. Patients already weakened by other illnesses are particularly at risk of succumbing. Epidemics of C. difficile have become such a serious problem that the infection now rivals the superbug MRSA as one of the top emerging disease threats.

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