Eric Pamer and his team of researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Eric Pamer and his team of researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Photo: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria can pose a serious health risk to people they infect. The digestive tract, which normally houses a number of helpful bacteria, can become a haven for invasive bacteria that can cause harm.

Enterococcus faecium and Klebsiella pneumoniae are two specific bacteria species that house themselves in the gut and are responsible for about 10% of hospital-acquired infections. Figuring out how these bacteria work, and ways to defeat them, is important, especially since they are both quite resistant to drugs.

But according to a new study published in PLOS Pathogens there be a surprising way to defeat them: fecal transplantation.

Eric Pamer and his team have been experimenting with mice to determine if fecal transplants from healthy digestive systems might be able to help us combat these to invasive bacteria which, to make things worse, can inhabit the gut at the same time like friendly neighbors. They infected mice with each of the bacteria and then performed fecal transplants from healthy mice to see what happened.

What they found was that the mice so treated did pretty well. In the case of E. faecium that numbers of that bacteria dropped dramatically within a day of the transplant, and were gone within seven days.

In the case of K. pneumoniae, the bacteria was cleared in 60% of cases, and its numbers reduced 1,000 times over in the other 40% of subjects. Both of these results are very impressive, but they leave some unanswered questions and room for more research.

Although the transplants seemed to have worked pretty well, the team isn’t exactly sure why they worked so well. They’ve added a lot to our knowledge of these two bacterial species, but they have plans for further research.

For one, they don’t know enough to try similar experiments with humans yet, but they also want to figure out what healthy bacteria were involved in the process, and how they helped combat the invasive species. That’s the next thing on their to-do list.