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Does the Internet promote the unregulated use of fecal microbiota transplantation: a potential public health issue?

Authors Segal JP, Abbasi F, Kanagasundaram C, Hart A

Received 12 December 2017

Accepted for publication 12 February 2018

Published 1 May 2018 Volume 2018:11 Pages 179—183


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Anastasios Koulaouzidis

Jonathan Philip Segal,1 Faisal Abbasi,2 Cynthia Kanagasundaram,3 Ailsa Hart1

1Department of Gastroenterology, St Mark’s Hospital, Harrow, UK, 2Lister Hospital, Stevenage, UK, 3Department of Gastroenterology, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, UK

Introduction: The Internet has become an increasingly popular resource for medical information. Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) has changed the treatment of Clostridium difficile with cure rates of 81% following one infusion of FMT, further studies have since validated these findings. The Medicines and Health care Products Regulatory Agency has classified FMT as a medicine and hence should be only utilized in strict clinical settings.
Methods: We searched Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube using the words “Faecal Microbiota Transplantation” and “FMT”. We utilized the first 50 hits on each site. We analyzed the percentage of articles that fell outside regulated medical practice. We searched how many clinics in the UK advertised practice that falls outside suggested guidelines.
Results: Google, YouTube, and Facebook had a variety of information regarding FMT available. Nine out of 50 (18%) of the top 50 google searches can be considered articles that fall outside regulated practice. YouTube highlighted four videos describing how to self-administer FMT, one of these was for ulcerative colitis. Fourteen percent of the top 50 YouTube videos fall outside regulated practice and 8% of the top 50 Facebook searches fall outside regulated clinical practice. There were two clinics in the UK advertising FMT for uses that fall outside regulated practice.
Conclusion: Clinicians and patients need to be aware of the resources available through social media and the Internet. It should be appreciated that some websites fall outside regulated clinical practice. Private clinics offering FMT need to ensure that they are offering FMT within a regulated framework.

fecal microbiota transplantation, FMT, microbiota, Internet, social media

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