- The Washington Times
Wednesday, October 15, 2014

An MIT postdoctoral associate has created a nonprofit that pays volunteers to provide doctors with stool samples.

Mark Smith’s nonprofit, OpenBiome, pays qualified individuals under 50 years old $40 a day for their bowel movements — and it’s saving lives.

“Think of us as a blood bank, but for poop,” Mr. Smith told Boston.com on Wednesday. His organization helps roughly 500,000 Americans per year through a medical process called fecal microbiota transplantation.

OpenBiome exists to help people afflicted by the bacteria C. difficile, the organization’s website says. Individuals taking antibiotics to treat infections sometimes fall victim to C. difficile because antibiotics can make the human gastrointestinal tract susceptible to the “bad” bacteria. The resulting symptoms of (e.g., nausea, diarrhea) kill up to 14,000 people per year. Putting the “good” bacteria into the stomach of someone suffering from C. difficile, through stool samples donated by OpenBiome, is a safe and effective way for doctors to treat patients.

“From the cost perspective, it’s a really efficient treatment for patients who aren’t responding to antibiotics,” Mr. Smith says of the process, which is called a “fecal transplant.”

Boston.com reported that applicants must answer a 120 question health history survey, have the health of their stool samples analyzed, and their blood tested for diseases before becoming a donor. Once the process is complete (the cost for lab tests are covered by the nonprofit), a donor will start getting paid to poop on a daily basis.

Individuals who are especially generous with their donations even get nicknames, such as “Vladimir Pootin, King of Poop, and Winnie the Poo,” Boston.com reported.

“These donors may seem very mild-mannered and think going to the bathroom is a humble thing,” Mr. Smith told the website, “but each sample they bring in can treat four or five patients.”

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