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article imageMass. stool bank offers donors $40 a poop

By Martin Laine     Oct 16, 2014 in Health
Ever since the discovery that healthy human stool bacteria could be used to cure such debilitating diseases as colitis, the medical profession has struggled with two problems — collecting a sufficient supply and finding a way to get it into a patient.
Larger hospitals and health care systems have developed their own stool banks, something that’s not always possible for smaller facilities and physicians in private practice.
OpenBiome, in the Boston suburb of Medford, is the only independent nonprofit stool bank in the country. They collect, test, package and distribute the stool samples. Donors are paid $40 per deposit. The fecal matter is priced at $250 per 250ml sample.
The stool bank services 122 hospitals in 33 states, according to an article on the Boston.com website.
In a healthy human body, there is a natural balance of all the different types of bacteria in the gastro-intestinal system. When something happens to tip that balance, it can create an excess of a bacteria called Clostridium difficile. The resulting infection causes fever, nausea, stomach pain, and diarrhea. It affects some 500,000 Americans per year, causing 14,000 deaths.
Taking bacteria from healthy stool and introducing it in to the patient’s gastrointestinal system restores the healthy balance. It has permanently cured the condition in 90 percent of the cases so far
The healthy bacterIa is introduced into a patient’s system by a procedure called a fecal transplant – an uncomfortable and somewhat risky process involving a tube inserted nasally or rectally.
However, a team of researchers in Massachusetts tried freezing the fecal matter and giving it to patients in capsule form. A relatively small group of patients — 20 in all — were given 15 capsules. The treatment have been successful so far in 14 of them, according to an article on the WebMD website.
“The small investigation provides preliminary data supporting the safety of this approach,” said Prof. Elizabeth Hohmann of the Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. She said more expensive tests are needed.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, has not wholeheartedly accepted the introduction of one person’s stool into another. Currently, it is still classified as being experimental, which means most insurance companies won’t cover the cost.
The FDA has also considered imposing some restrictions – notably that the don or must be known to the patient, and the patient’s personal physician must collect and test the fecal matter for safety. For the time being, they are waiting until more data is gathered about the long-term effects, and no final decision has been issued yet.
More about stool bank, fecal transplants, colitis