Half a million people this year will get an infection called C. diff. It ranges from uncomfortable to life-threatening. And in more and more cases, doctors are turning to an unusual but highly effective treatment.
In the space of two months, Cathy Guzzo's body had gone into crisis.
She recalled, "Oh, I thought I was gonna die. Every day I got worse and worse and weaker."
The villain was a bacteria called Clostridium Difficile, or C.diff, that lives in the colon. Each year, 30,000 people die from C-diff infections. Symptoms are like a horrible case of food poisoning that doesn't go away.
Cathy said, "I lost over 40 pounds in weight, I got so weak I couldn't walk any longer."
Dr. Rick Newman of the Endoscopy Center said C. diff has become resistant to antibiotics. So doctors have to do something different.
He continued, "Now what we're resorting to is an old fashioned procedure that's been around for a long, long time, that sounds kind of unusual and a little bit crude."
It's called a fecal transplant. Cathy remembered the moment the doctor told her about the procedure.
She said, "I looked at my husband, he looked at me, and we started laughing, never heard of such a thing."
C. diff is a threat when it flourishes and crowds out the good bacteria that normally live in the digestive tract. This often happens after a strong course of antibiotics. The fecal transplant places a donor's healthy stool into the patient's colon, to bring back a normal balance. Dr. Newman said, "We do a colonoscopy, and we go all the way to the top of the colon which is about six feet up, and we actually try to get into the small intestine and we put the material there."
Cathy said her results were nothing short of a miracle. She continued, "Four days afterwards I didn't have one sign of C. diff, no diarrhea, no vomiting nothing in four days, after 2 years."
The procedure has a 90 to 95 percent success rate.
Cathy concluded, "Do not laugh at this. It's not a nice subject, but it works."