Poop Transplants: Would You Rather Give or Receive?

Amy Kuras
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You've heard plenty of heart-warming stories about how organ transplants save the lives of recipients, often allowing people decades of normal life after their new heart or kidney or whatever comes to them.

And then there are poop transplants ... just as life-saving, but considerably more disgusting. No, it's not something an 8-year-old boy made up, it really actually happens.

If wrapping your brain around the idea of poop transplants makes you want to vomit just a little bit, think about this: If you're one of those super germophobes who slather their kids in hand sanitizer and use disinfecting wipes on every surface that they touch, you're at fault for the very existence of such a gross-sounding procedure. It's caused by one of those superbugs that are on the rise thanks to the use of antibiotics.

While most of us try to avoid introducing other people's poop into our bodies, it's a last ditch hope for someone suffering from superbug C. diff.

It's resistant to antibiotics, and it generally takes huge megadoses of the few drugs that will kill it to do the trick. Poop, however, is crawling with beneficial bacteria that can crowd out the bad stuff.

While a fecal transplant sounds like something a reasonably dexterous 2-year-old could handle, it's actually somewhat involved. Doctors generally ask for a stool sample from a close relative. There's an awkward conversation, huh? The sample is tested for hepatitis, HIV, and parasites (ugh), liquefied (sorry), and dripped into the sick person's colon during a colonoscopy (even more sorry). The hope is that the good bacteria from the healthy colon will crowd out the bad bacteria and make the person all better ... if unable to look their donor in the eye ever again.

 

Image via Peter Taylor (nickstone333)/Flickr

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