How to prepare stool banks for an appropriate response to the ongoing COVID- 19 pandemic: Experiences in the Netherlands and a retrospective comparative cohort study for faecal microbiota transplantation

Bas Groenewegen, Emilie van Lingen, Rogier E. Ooijevaar, Els Wessels, Mariet C. W. Feltkamp, Eline Boeije-Koppenol, Hein W. Verspaget, Ed J. Kuijper, Joffrey van Prehn, Josbert J. Keller, Elisabeth M. Terveer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background Faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is an efficacious treatment for patients with recurrent Clostridioides difficile infections (rCDI). Stool banks facilitate FMT by providing screened faecal suspensions from highly selected healthy donors. Due to the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and the potential risk of SARS coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) transmission via FMT, many stool banks were forced to temporarily halt and adjust donor activities. Goal The evaluation of a strategy to effectively continue stool banking activities during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Study To restart our stool banking activities after an initial halt, we implemented periodic SARSCoV- 2 screening in donor faeces and serum, and frequent donor assessment for COVID-19 related symptoms. FMT donor and recipient data obtained before (2016-2019) and during the COVID-19 pandemic (March 2020-August 2021) were compared to assess stool banking efficacy. Results Two out of ten donors developed COVID-19. No differences during versus before the COVID-19 pandemic were observed in the number of approved faeces donations (14 vs 22/ month, p = 0.06), FMT requests for rCDI (3.9 vs 4.3/month, p = 0.6); rCDI patients eligible for FMT (80.6% vs 73.3%, p = 0.2); rCDI cure rate (90.3% vs 89.2%, p = 0.9); CDI-free survival (p = 0.7); the number of non-rCDI patients treated with FMT (0.5/month vs 0.4/month), and the number of possibly FMT related adverse events (9.5% vs 7.8%, p = 0.7). Two FMTs for rCDI were delayed due to COVID-19. Conclusions There is a continued need for FMT treatment of rCDI during the COVID-19 pandemic. Appropriate donor screening and SARS-CoV-2 infection prevention measures can be implemented in existing protocols without increasing the burden for donors, and allow safe, effective and efficient FMT during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Stool banks should evaluate their SARS-CoV-2 donor screening protocols for long-term sustainability and efficacy, and share their experiences to help the utilisation, standardisation and improvement of stool banks worldwide.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0265426
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3 March
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022

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