We first brought you the news that fecal transplants were a thing last year, and now we’re happy to report that a bank – a poo bank, if you will – has opened.
The bank will provide US doctors willing to do the procedure with safe fecal matter from screened donors.
Fecal transplants – it’s the kind of topic you can make light of, but on a more serious note, this revolutionary process can save lives.
It’s used for patients suffering from C.Diff (more on that below) but one of the main issues previously has been finding appropriate donors.
That’s where OpenBiome comes in. It’s a nonprofit organisation, which has already provided more than 135 frozen donations to 13 hospitals since September.
Nice one OpenBiome.
Poo. Faeces. Excrement.
Let me explain why I’m writing about poo.
When your day job involves writing for an online media outlet, you often find yourself going the weirdest of internet rabbit holes in the name of research. And often you’ll come out the other side enlightened, disturbed and with an overwhelming desire to curl up in a foetal position and think only of rainbows and unicorns.
Case in point: faecal transplants, which involve transplanting one person’s poo into another person’s body.
Following link after link after link I came across the Power of Poop website and became engrossed in the taboo treatment of stool transplants. And as it turns out they’re changing lives.
I know, I know, you have questions that need to be answered – that’s why we’re going to take this one from the top with a Q&A style cheatsheet (apologies in advance if you were eating lunch):
What the what what?
Um, why would you even want to do that?
It’s to help restore intestinal bacterial flora wiped out by antibiotics in diseases (commonly contracted in hospital) such as Clostridium Difficile (C. Diff.) and increasingly in other inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohns Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
The best case scenario for C. Diff sufferers is debilitating diarrhoea and worse case is intestinal disease – it’s estimated C. Diff kills around 30,000 Americans each year. So yeah, FMT’s 94% success rate (compared to 31% with vancomycin) is changing lives.
Research is also being undertaken to see if it can assist in other conditions such as autoimmune disorders, obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
Okay, tell me EXACTLY how this works?
A stool sample is blended with water or saline to form an even mixture, it’s then filtered to remove any lumps, and the transfer is done via an enema, colonoscope or nasogastric tube.
You need more visuals? Of course you do, watch this video. (Warning: if you don’t have a strong stomach or are mid-way through your lunch, you may want to hit play after it’s been digested.)
So you don’t have to taste/swallow/drink the other poo?
Nope. Even in the case of the oral procedure, the poo skips the tastebuds and as it travels into the large intestine.
I dunno, it still sounds kind of gross to me.
Fair enough but this video about the youngest ever FMT recipient will change your mind on that.
Hang on, why are we even talking about this?
Researchers have recently found that bacteria in the poop of slim people could be effective in treating obesity.
Four sets of female twins, one woman in each pair was obese, but the other had a healthy body weight, were recruited for their stool samples.
The scientists then transplanted the samples into mice bred to have no gut microbes of their own and the ones given the poo from the obese twin gained weight while the other mice stayed slim when they received the thinner women’s excrement.
Turns out a bug, Bacteroides, was present in higher concentrations in the women with the healthy weight range and protected the animals from putting on too much fat.
How is a “quality” specimen determined?
According to the PoP website, at a minimum your donor must have:
- regular bowel movements that are firm and formed but not hard
- good general health
- good digestive health
- not prone to gastric upsets
- no history of anti-biotic use
- no regular use of anti-inflammatories or painkillers (occassional is ok)
- no sign of a mood disorder
Where do you get it done?
Only a few clinics offer the treatment, the Centre for Digestive Diseases in Sydney is one. Professor Thomas Borody, director of the clinic and pioneer of the procedure in Australia, does one to six transplants a week at his Five Dock clinic. You can find a list of FMT doctors here and you should talk to your GP for more information if you think it’s for you.
Is there a poo donor register or something?
No, but the University of New South Wales are wanting donors for a study in faecal transplantation if you’re interested?