Fecal transplants hold promise to treat gut microbiome-related disorders, but that potential shouldn't be wasted with unregulated treatments, says an opinion piece at New Scientist.
The gut microbiome and its inhabitants have been implicated in conditions ranging from obesity to inflammatory bowel disease and from cancer to mental disorders. And for some conditions, particularly Clostridium difficile infections, fecal transplants have been shown to work, but for many of the rest, there's little evidence thus far that they are effective.
Further, there could be side effects of such a transplant. There's anecdotal evidence, New Scientist notes in a separate article for which it surveyed practitioners about their patients' experiences, of weight gain, changes to the skin, appetite, or mood, and sometimes a worsening of IBD. "All you can tell from the survey is that unexpected outcomes do occur. We don't know how frequent they are," says Neil Stollman, a California gastroenterologist. For that, New Scientist adds, clinical trials would be needed
Fecal transplants are now regulated in the US and Canada, and New Scientist argues other countries should do likewise "lest the procedure becomes an unregulated cure-all that ends up squandering the great promise."