You’re probably already familiar with the idea of donating blood, plasma, organs, or even hair in order to benefit someone in the middle of a medical crisis. But, did you know that donating stool can save lives too? That’s right, donating your poop to a stool bank is a great way to help someone in need (and leave you “flush” with cash, too).
Who Benefits from Fecal Transplants?
“In 2011, a close friend of ours contracted a C. difficile infection after a routine surgery, and antibiotic treatment wasn’t working. For 18 months, we watched him suffer with this debilitating illness and several rounds of failed treatment.
Knowing the evidence supporting the use of fecal transplantation to treat recurrent C. difficile infection, he sought but couldn’t find a clinician who could perform the treatment for him. When he finally received a life-changing fecal transplant, the effect was remarkable. Within a couple of days he had his life back.”
So began the organization of doctors, scientists, and public health advocates now known as OpenBiome. It’s a non-profit stool bank that provides over 30,000 donations each year to people suffering from C. difficile colitis, a condition stemming from a toxic bacterium that can wreak havoc on the intestines and can be deadly.
A fecal transplant can help someone with C. difficile colitis by replenishing the “good” bacteria in the gut that toxic bacteria had previously overpowered. It’s reported that a fecal transplant (aka fecal bacteriotherapy) has an 85% success rate.
OpenBiome also uses their stool bank for clinical trials in the hopes of learning more about the human microbiome. (If you’re familiar with The Hearty Soul, you’ll already know how important your gut bacteria can be for your health! If this sounds new to you, check out this article.)
Stool sample research could help people affected by:
- Recurrent C. difficile
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, & others)
- Liver Disease
- Food Allergies
- Antibiotic Resistance
- Multiple Sclerosis
— OpenBiome (@OpenBiome) June 30, 2018
What Does it Take to be a Poop Donor?
As you might imagine, not just any stool will do! All potential donors must first go through a rigorous screening process that includes blood samples and stool tests to ensure there’s no risk of spreading disease. Donors are tested for (2):
- Blood tests: Hepatitis A, B, and C serologies; HIV; RPR
- Stool tests: Ova and parasites; C. difficile PCR; culture and sensitivity; giardia antigen
Screening also rules out potential donors who have recently traveled to endemic locations, have a history of drug use, have used antibiotics recently, have recently gotten a tattoo or piercing, and more.
To be eligible to donate at OpenBiome, specifically, donors must be able to drop off samples in person at their Boston, Cambridge, or Somerville offices at least 3 times a week for 60 days. You can be compensated with $40 for each sample (there’s reportedly a $50 bonus for donating 5 times a week- so being a committed donor can get you a healthy $13,000 in a year!)
If you’re outside of Massachusetts and interested in becoming a donor, we recommend getting in touch with a local gastroenterologist and asking if they perform fecal transplants. This young man in Tampa, Florida provides weekly samples for a gastroenterologist in his neighborhood, Dr. Roland David Shepard:
Now, you don’t have to be brave enough to have your poop filmed for an internet audience like Michael, but if you’re considering becoming a donor, we encourage you to look into it!
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