The THRIVE (transfer of healthy gut flora for restoration of intestinal microbiota via enema) trial is a small phase 1 study that will investigate whether faecal transplants can help severely malnourished children who fail to develop even after their nutritional needs are met.
Globally, about 35% of children who have severe acute malnutrition fail standard therapy, which includes specially formulated high-calorie food, says UCT’s Shrish Budree, a research fellow at OpenBiome and one of the investigators on the trial.
"These kids don’t achieve their full growth potential and end up stunted, with an increased risk of infections and mortality," he says.
"In the longer term, they are likely to be less productive adults, which has bigger implications for society at large. There is currently no alternative for the kids who don’t respond to standard therapy."