There's A Man Whose Almost-Perfect Poop Saves Lives

Photo: Chameleons Eye/REX USA
You can learn a lot from your poop: The state of your digestive system, the impact of your diet and lifestyle on your general health, even your predisposition for illness. But CNN Wire explains that if you're one of those rare people whose poop is "fairly close to perfect," like Eric, a 24-year-old research assistant at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, you can even use it to help save lives.

It turns out that the necessary bodily function that can stink up a bathroom like no other can also quite literally heal those suffering from the gut infection Clostridium difficile, or C. diff. A bacterium that inflames the colon, C. diff causes diarrhea, fever, nausea, loss of appetite, and, in 14,000 to 30,000 cases a year, death. But life-saving bacteria inside the fecal matter of people like Eric can help.

How's it work? Basically, a ridiculous amount of bacteria — some good, some bad — lives inside your poop. When people take antibiotics for various reasons, sometimes the antibiotics don't work properly and the good bacteria ends up being killed off while bad bacteria, like C. diff, multiplies unchecked. But through a fecal transplant, the life-saving bacteria that lives inside of people like Eric's guts can be used to chase the harmful C. difficile bacteria out of the intestines of sick people.

"It’s unreal," Eric said of the process's impact. "I never thought I would be staring at my poop, frozen in a freezer, destined to help people across the country. It’s really cool.” And while Eric is making money for his donations — as Refinery29 has previously reported, if you qualify, you can make up to $13,000 from selling your poop — he's right to be proud. OpenBiome, the small laboratory outside of Boston that pioneered this process, put Eric through a 109-point clinical assessment before determining that he would be a helpful donor. Turns out, only 3% of prospective donors end up being healthy enough to give.

"It’s easier to get into M.I.T. and Harvard than it is to get enrolled as one of our donors," Mark Smith, OpenBiome’s research director, explained. "A lot of our donors are pretty excited to take something they do every day and save people’s lives with it."

And that simply must be true: Eric travels more than half an hour, taking a train to a bus, to reach the OpenBiome labs every time he donates. But for the amazing 90% of treated patients that get better following a fecal transplant, Eric's efforts are life-changing. Props to your poops, sir.

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