A fascinating if undoubtedly stomach-turning branch of medicine is suggesting itself as a potential treatment option for people with Alopecia Areata, the autoimmune disorder that leads to sudden, patchy hair loss.
Horrific as it sounds, a method of transplanting someone else’s faeces into the body might be a way to regrow hair that was shed because of Alopecia Areata.
There have so far been just two documented cases where hair lost to the condition has regrown after faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), but they may be significant. Reporting on the cases, medical website empr.com states that both subjects – two males – with severe forms of autoimmune hair loss were actually being treated for a condition called Clostridium difficile infection (CDI), a gut disorder which often arises when people have taken antibiotics for an unrelated condition.
In simple terms, the antibiotics upset the bacterial balance of the gut, leading to an explosion in the number of C. difficile microorganisms. The result is watery diarrhoea, fever, nausea and abdominal pain. The condition kills almost 30,000 people a year.
Re-populating gut with healthy bacteria
The novel solution that seems to work in the lion’s share of reported cases is to transplant the faeces from someone with a healthy gut into the body of someone with CDI. As grim as this sounds, this has the effect of re-populating the gut with the right blend of bacteria that it needs, and the balance is quickly restored.
The first case in which someone who had both Alopecia Universalis (an extreme form of Alopecia Areata) and CDI found their hair growing back after FMT was a 38-year-old who reported hair growth after eight weeks. Prior to this, steroid injections had not proved effective – which is unsurprising as Alopecia Universalis is very difficult to treat. Three years later, reports empr.com, he still has hair. Continues below…
In the second case, a 20-year-old man who had both ileocolic Crohn’s disease and Alopecia Universalis went from almost total baldness to between half and three-quarters of the hair growing back on his head and body following FMT.
Undoubtedly, these two cases suggest a whole new way of looking at the mechanisms and causes of Alopecia Areata and its related conditions. Indeed, doctors in Providence and Chicago in the US who compiled a report on the two patients have stated that, “further study of gut microbiota in patients with autoimmune alopecia may elucidate disease mechanisms and provide evidence to support clinical trials of FMT in this population.”
Drastic measure in many cases
In most cases of autoimmune hair loss, a transfusion of someone else’s excrement would seem rather drastic – and luckily there is a less unsavoury alternative when the loss is not severe.
In mild cases of Alopecia Areata, the hair should normally regrow naturally within up to 12 months, though if or when this hair growth will resume is unknown. When the rounded bald patches affect the scalp only, professional treatment can often be effective, as can be seen in Belgravia’s Alopecia Areata Treatment Success Stories gallery.
Belgravia’s hair loss specialists can provide custom Alopecia Areata treatment programmes for people aged 16 and over with this version of the disorder. Though the topical medication minoxidil is clinically-proven to treat genetic alopecia, it is also known to have a significant benefits in cases of other hair loss conditions. At Belgravia recommended formulations of high strength minoxidil are used on the affected areas with further appropriate hair growth boosters tailored to the individual’s requirements and medical suitability.
For children affected by autoimmune alopecia of any kind, or adults with the more serious forms such as Alopecia Totalis and Alopecia Universalis – which affect facial and body hair as well as scalp hair – a doctor should be consulted. Whilst research into these extreme phenotypes is continuing apace, it is currently believed that any effective treatment will not be released until at least 2021.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.