When antibiotics can't kill the bacteria in your gut, someone else's poop sometimes can. When pit against certain breeds of intestinal bacteria like C. difficile, which causes 14,000 deaths per year in the US, fecal transplants can be 90 percent effective — but where do you find a donor? The US Food and Drug Administration doesn't make it easy, since feces is considered a drug. That's where OpenBiome comes in, a nonprofit started by two graduate students at Princeton and MIT. For just $250, the company will provide hospitals with fecal samples on demand, reports ScienceNews.
Fecal transplants can be 90 percent effective — but where do you find a donor?
OpenBiome operates out of an MIT research lab with clearance from the FDA, and sources its feces from a small community of researchers and scientists from Harvard and MIT. Each sample is screened for parasites and pathogens before being shipped to a hospital. The company also handles finding the right feces to match your internal ecology, since even feces from a perfectly healthy donor can prove disastrous for the wrong recipient. Once the samples reach the hospital, they are administered to patients via enema, colonoscopy or nose tube to the gut. C. difficile can also be battled by feces delivered in pill form, but OpenBiome doesn't support that method.
Over 100 recipients have already been administered samples at 12 clinics, ScienceNews reports, and that number will likely grow even higher. Scientists don't yet know the effects of fecal transplants on a variety of maladies, but researchers have considered tests on inflammatory bowl syndrome patients.