May 8, 2023
Fecal Microbiota Transplants (FMT) can now be delivered via an ingestible pill. Though fecal transplants are more commonly delivered via enema or colonoscopy, companies like Finch Therapeutics in Boston, MA are making Poop capsules or “crapsules” that are a less invasive FMT delivery option and seem to be just as effective.
FMT capsules are an exciting development in microbiome-related medicine. Below we cover everything you need to know from how they’re made to where to buy them, including:
First let’s dig a bit deeper into what FMT capsules are and why they are such an exciting development in this field of medicine.
FMT capsules are fecal samples encased in pill form. They are ingested just like any other pill, and have a casing designed to break down in the gut so that there is no taste or smell and they are safe for digestion. The pills contain the same material used in enema, colonoscopy, or nasoenteric tube FMTs.
Multiple healthcare companies have developed these freeze dried poop pills as an alternative to more invasive FMT methods, as an oral fecal transplant option. The pills provide the possibility of a cheaper and more accessible form of FMT, cutting down on procedure time and costs.
FMT is not usually performed through orally ingested capsules; in fact “crapsules” are a fairly new form of FMT. Traditionally, fecal transplants are performed via enema or colonoscopy - in layman's terms, insertion through the butt. They may also be delivered via nasoenteric tube, which is fed through the nose all the way into the gut.
FMT capsules are made by first collecting stool from a healthy donor. The stool is then screened, and if it passes, is mixed with water or saline and turned into a slurry. That slurry is then carefully put into specially designed capsule shells that are broken down by acids found in the stomach and colon.
The design of the capsule shell is likely just as important as the safety of the sample being put into it. The capsules must break down at just the right time so that the sample is delivered to the correct part of the GI system and not too early or too late. You can learn more about how poop capsules are made from OpenBiome.
Companies like Finch Therapeutics are at the forefront of developing and improving fecal transplant pills, but as of yet they cannot be bought for take-home use. Access to FMT capsules is dependent on your region and condition. In the U.S. “crapsules” can only be taken for recurrent Clostridium Difficile infection, under the supervision of a doctor.
Similar regulations are in effect in many countries and regions, but there is good reason to believe that the pills will be more widely available in the coming years. They have already presented promising results; it is just a matter of more positive data being released by studies.
Currently, there is nowhere on the open market that you can buy poop pills. You can however still get access to these fecal pills by participating in a study like this one for people struggling with C. Difficile.
Studies investigating the efficacy of FMT for weight loss are still in the early stages but are promising. If the studies prove FMT to be effective in treating obesity, there could someday be poop pills to lose weight loss for purchase. Of course, these pills would be intended for major weight loss only.
Poop pills have been shown to be just as effective in treating C Diff infections as other forms of FMT delivery. As for IBS or the chronic illnesses FMT is being studied to treat, there is not yet enough data to the FMT success rates in all cases - though general theory is that it should be just as effective.
FMT capsules are a great alternative for those looking for a less invasive cure to the Clostridium Difficile infection. They have been proven in clinical study to be just as effective as other methods of delivery, like colonoscopy or nasoenteric tube.
With IBS and the chronic illnesses that are associated with the microbiome, studies underway have mostly utilized enemas or colonoscopies as their preferred method of delivery. As of yet, there have not been adequate results to show comparable efficiency of the methods.
Generally the best form of FMT will be the one that reaches the problem area easiest; in the case of stool pills, the upper tract of the colon is generally where the sample will be released. Below are some of those chronic illnesses that might one day be treated with a poop pill.
Check out this list of fecal transplant treatments to learn about the diseases and chronic illnesses FMT have already been studied (and proven) to treat.
There is not yet FDA approval for fecal transplants, though the FDA will allow FMT to be used in recurrent cases of C Diff that are unresponsive to regular therapies (antibiotics). More research will have to be done to pass regulations to allow FMT as a widely-available medical treatment.
If you are still interested in learning more about FMT and poop pills here are some other online resources to check out.
Everything You Need To Know About Becoming a Fecal Transplant Donor
If this article got you interested in being an FMT donor, check out this guide to learn about how you can become one and learn more about how FMT’s are made.
'Poop Pills' Work Just As Well As Traditional Fecal Transplants
FMT capsules have been proven to be just as effective a treatment as the standard methods of FMT delivery. Read more about the “crapsules” and why they work just as well.
Check out this list of current fecal transplant clinics operating around the world. If one is in your area, you may be able to get access to another form of FMT if you can’t get the pills.