Quote of the day: POO

November 26, 2014

POO

No one knows how many people have undergone fecal transplants—the official term is fecal microbiota transplantation, or FMT—but the number is thought to be at least ten thousand and climbing rapidly. New research suggests that the microbes in our guts—and, consequently, in our stool—may play a role in conditions ranging from autoimmune disorders to allergies and obesity, and reports of recoveries by patients who, with or without the help of doctors, have received these bacteria-rich infusions have spurred demand for the procedure. A year and a half ago, a few dozen physicians in the United States offered FMT. Today, hundreds do, and OpenBiome, a nonprofit stool bank founded last year by graduate students at M.I.T., ships more than fifty specimens each week to hospitals in thirty-six states. The Cleveland Clinic named fecal transplantation one of the top ten medical innovations for 2014, and biotech companies are competing to put stool-based therapies through clinical trials and onto the market. In medicine, at any rate, human excrement has become a precious commodity.

Science writers love to cite the freakish fact that for every one of our cells we are hosts to ten microbial ones, and nowhere are there as many as in our digestive tracts, which house about a hundred trillion bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other tiny creatures. (As one gastroenterologist put it to me, with only mild exaggeration, “We’re ten per cent human and ninety per cent poo.”)

–Emily Eakin, “The Excrement Experiment,” The New Yorker

excrement experiment

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