Scientists say you need to create a personal poop bank for stool transplants

Get your Metamucil, folks. Scientists say you need to start saving your poop.

A team of researchers from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital published an opinion article in the journal Trends in Molecular Medicine Today, we’re sounding the alarm about a trend in how human gut microbiomes (microorganisms in your digestive tract like bacteria) have changed over the past few decades. These changes have been linked to increases in digestive disorders, allergies, and even type 2 diabetes.

To combat these ailments, the authors suggest people need to start personal poop banks. That’s right: poop banks.

The idea is that you keep a stool sample from your youth. If, later in life, your gut microbiota has changed and you encounter a disease caused by those changes, you can undergo an absolutely damn treatment known as autologous fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) — or a poop transplant.

“Conceptually, the idea of ​​the bench chair for autologous FMT is similar to when parents save their baby’s cord blood for possible future use,” said Yang-Yu Liu, associate professor of medicine at Harvard and co-author of the article, in a press release. “However, there is greater potential for stool banks, and we anticipate that the chance of using stool samples is much higher than for cord blood.”

While FMTs are gross as hell, they have been used in the past to effectively treat digestive tract disorders like those caused by Clostridioides difficile (C. diff), a deadly bacterium that can take over your colon when the microbiomes in your gut are destroyed — often by antibiotics. While a regiment of antibiotics might treat it C. diff, There is a chance it will become resistant. In this case, doctors can use alternative treatments such as FMT.

The way it works is pretty gross. A donor provides a healthy stool sample that is mixed with a saline solution, which is then flushed through your digestive tract via a colonoscopy. However, once it is in your system, it replaces the C. diff with the healthy bacteria from the donor stool. While gross, it has shown 90 percent effectiveness in treating the condition, according to Johns Hopkins.

But even FMT has its limitations – especially when it comes to using a stool sample from a donor. As with an organ transplant, there is a chance that the foreign feces will be expelled. The team believes that if the healthy stool sample is from the same patient who needs it, the likelihood of rejection decreases and the chances of successful treatment increase. In order to achieve this, the person’s stool sample must be collected when they are young and kept cryogenically frozen if and when the situation arises where they require FMT.

“Autologous transplants would naturally avoid, or at least mitigate, donor-recipient compatibility issues,” said Shanlin Ke, a research associate studying gut microbiomes at Harvard and a co-author of the paper, in the press release.

However, he acknowledges that cryopreservation is “a major disadvantage” due to the need to store liquid nitrogen, adding that “further research is needed to systematically test longer storage times and methods of preservation, resuscitation and culturing”.

The need for cryopreservation could also create an inequality where only wealthy individuals can afford to deposit at the Poop Bank. Finally, storing liquid nitrogen doesn’t come cheap. As a result, diseases such as C. diff Low-income patients disproportionately affected. Yang said solving this problem would require the “joint power of entrepreneurs, scientists and perhaps governments.”

So while the paper offers a novel and innovative solution to the problems of a depleted gut microbiome, it means the new theater of class warfare could be in our toilets — and that’s a problem we can’t just flush away. Scientists say you need to create a personal poop bank for stool transplants


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