Fecal Medicine: How One's Stool Could Save a Life

Khryss | Published 2017-12-05 23:11

Some good shit.

Fecal microbiota transplant or FMT is a medical procedure wherein a healthy person’s feces is injected into an unhealthy person’s gut to replenish good bacteria and other micro-organisms necessary for a healthy bowel. For the past 20 years, fecal transplants have gone from an unconventional experiment to an FDA-approved treatment for C.Diff., or Clostridium Difficile, a harmful bacteria that causes diarrhea and more serious intestinal conditions such as colitis. FMT is proven to be 90 to 95 percent effective at curing the bacteria.

In the early days of fecal transplants, people would just pick their friends with really healthy bowels and take their feces to the hospital. The hospital would then divvy the stool up. But now there’s a stool bank called OpenBiome in Boston, Massachusetts, which welcomes donors and gives them 40 dollars a sample. But before donors can make $40 a pop, pun intended, they must undergo a rigorous screening process that involves testing the stool for any blood borne pathogens and a 179 question survey about their medical history, dietary health and general behaviour.

The process of making the sample donated from a donor into a usable equipment for transplant starts with taking the sample out of the biosafety cabinet and putting the feces into a re-sealable bag--similar to a ziplock--and bringing it over to a homogenizing machine. The bag then goes in the machine for two minutes and 30 seconds. The homogenized sample is then bottled into small vials and then frozen until it is ready to be used.

Little has been understood about poop and how it interacts with the digestive system of a foreign body. However, more research is done into FMT and science will hopefully make donating feces as safe and direct as giving a blood sample. Its applications can even expand further, going beyond C.Diff, such as treating a wide array of intestinal diseases as well as conditions affecting the liver, immune system, and even mood.

"We're kind of in this lucky position where we already know that this works really well for this infection. We're sort of just making that available we didn't sort of discover and invent FMT is a treatment for C.Diff.,” says Dr. Mark Smith, Research Director and co-founder of OpenBiome.


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