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Man with almost-perfect poop donates it to help patients with C-diff infection

Stashed in: Science!, Awesome, Scatology, Medicine, Science Too, Microbiome, Interesting Tidbits

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I've heard of this procedure before, but this is the first article that gets into the DETAILS about how the poop hits the fan. Also I had no idea that C. difficile KILLS 15,000 Americans a year! It's no joke, people.

True it's no joke. But this donor has a lot of discipline in being so regular with his donations:

Over the past 2½ months, Eric has generated 10.6 pounds of poop over 29 visits, enough feces to produce 133 treatments for patients suffering from Clostridium difficile, an infection that kills 15k Americans a year and sickens half a million.

Sadly, they haven't figured out yet how to manufacture such useful poop in a lab.

I know a University of Texas PhD student here in Austin that sells his poop for fecal implants all from Craigslist!  He sells to about two clients a month for about $500 to $800 a dump...

Who knew!

How does a person figure out that her / his poop is worth $500 to $800 a dump?

To donate, Eric had to pass a 109-point clinical assessment. There is a laundry list of factors that would disqualify a donor: obesity, illicit drug use, antibiotic use, travel to regions with high risk of contracting diseases, even recent tattoos. His stools and blood also had to clear a battery of laboratory screenings to make sure he didn’t have any infections.

After all that screening, only 3% of prospective donors are healthy enough to give. “I had no idea,” he says about his poop. “It turns out that it’s fairly close to perfect.”

And that, unlike most people’s poop, makes Eric’s worth money. OpenBiome pays its 22 active donors $40 per sample. They’re encouraged to donate often, every day if they can. Eric has earned about $1,000.

“It takes us a lot of time and effort to find these donors,” says OpenBiome’s research director, Mark Smith. “When we do find them, we want to keep them as engaged as possible and really want to compensate them for their time.”

In Boston there is a waiting list of thousands!

Why is Eric’s poop so valuable?

A hundred trillion bacteria live inside your gut, some good, some bad. When patients take antibiotics for infections, sometimes they fail to work; good bacteria gets killed off while bad bacteria — C. difficile — grows unchecked.

The life-saving bacteria from the guts of people like Eric can help. When their healthy microbes are placed inside the intestines of a sick person they can chase out harmful C. difficile bacteria. It’s called a fecal transplant. The treatments are administered bottom-up, through a colonoscopy, or top-down, through a tube in the nose.

OpenBiome’s poop donors have created about 5,000 treatments, and the organization says the results have been stunning: 

Stinky human waste is an astonishingly simple cure: 90% of the patients get better.

“They’ll actually have this really transformational experience where they’ll be going to the bathroom 20 times a day and then have normal bowel movements sort of immediately or the next day,” Smith says.

The organization’s fecal transplants cost $385 to purchase and are providing a treatment to more than 350 hospitals in 47 states.

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