For seriously ill patients with multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs) in their gastrointestinal tract, performing a fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) may result in fewer and less severe infections, as well as shorter hospital stays, according to investigators.
Significant clinical improvements were observed across the group even though 59% of patients did not clear MDROs, which suggests that complete decolonization of resistant organisms may be unnecessary for patients to benefit from FMT, reported lead author Julian Marchesi, PhD, of Cardiff (Wales) University and Imperial College London (England).
“We see the quality of life for these patients is hugely improved even when we don’t get rid of the organism totally,” Dr. Marchesi said in a virtual press conference.
Although previous studies have suggested that FMT may be used to decolonize MDROs, little research has addressed other clinical outcomes, the investigators wrote in an abstract released as part of the annual Digestive Disease Week®, which was canceled because of COVID-19.
The present study involved 20 patients with MDROs, including extended-spectrum beta-lactamase Enterobacteriaceae (ESBL), carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE), or vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE). Approximately half of the population (n = 11) had chronic hematological disease. The other half (n = 9) had recurrent urinary tract infections with ESBL, including patients who had undergone renal transplant or had recurrent Clostridioides difficile infection.
For each transplant, 200-300 mL of fecal slurry was delivered via nasogastric tube into the small intestine. Fecal donors underwent a strict screening process that included blood, fecal, and behavioral testing.
Multiple clinical outcomes were evaluated in the 6 months leading up to FMT, then compared with outcomes in the 6 months following fecal transplant. Out of 20 patients, 17 completed the 6-month follow-up. Although only 7 of these patients (41%) were decolonized of MDROs, multiple significant clinical improvements were observed across the group, including reductions in MDRO bloodstream infections (P = .047), all bloodstream infections (P = .03), length of stay in hospital (P = .0002), and duration of carbapenem use (P = .0005). Eight out of 11 patients with hematologic disease improved enough to undergo stem cell transplantation within 6 months of FMT, and in the subgroup of patients who had undergone renal transplant, the rate of urinary tract infections was significantly improved (P = .008).
No serious adverse events were encountered during the trial, which led the investigators to conclude that FMT was safe and well tolerated, even in patients with bloodstream infections and those who were highly immunosuppressed.
Beyond clinical implications, Dr. Marchesi suggested that the study findings should influence FMT trial methodology.
“We’ve got to start thinking a little bit differently in terms of how we measure the impact of FMT,” he said. “It’s not all about ... getting rid of these opportunistic pathogens. There are other quality-of-life factors that we need to measure, because they’re also important for the patient.”
Dr. Marchesi said that more research is needed to confirm findings and gain a mechanistic understanding of why patients may improve despite a lack of decolonization.
“We think we’re on a strong foundation here to take this into a clinical trial,” he said.
The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research and the Medical Research Council. The investigators reported no conflicts of interest.