October 20, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Ad In Bathroom Stall: Your Stool Needed as Life-Saving Tool

When you go into the bathroom, you might expect to see graffiti on the wall, right?

I recently saw something very different that left me surprised.

Fecal Transplant Poster from Bathroom.
Fecal Transplant Poster from Bathroom.

Around Sacramento a new kind of “writing on the wall” is showing up in some bathrooms in the form of essentially a paper advertisement taped to the stall wall making an unusual request.

The company behind this new effort, AdvancingBio, is asking people to donate their fecal matter to save lives.

Some people are perhaps understandably squeamish about talking about fecal matter and even more so about transplanting it from one person to another, but Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT) has shown promise as an innovative therapy. The FDA views it as an investigational new drug.

On their FAQ page the company cites a 90% cure rate for Clostridium difficile infection (C. diff) from the American College of Gastroenterology. This seems like a very outside-the-box way to help others via something that you might otherwise just flush.

As an innovative new medicine, I don’t see any risk to being a donor, although being a recipient is likely to have possibly risks in addition to benefits. For perspective, however, it is not unusual for patients with the most severe C. diff infections to die.

AdvancingBio is a non-profit company owned by BloodSource, a company that distributes blood in Northern California. I briefly talked to AdvancingBio on the phone and it seems like what they are trying to accomplish is a very positive thing. According to an article in the SacBee on the company, it is one of only two such stool banks in the country:

“Unlike OpenBiome, a stool bank in Massachusetts that offers $40 per stool sample, AdvancingBio does not offer any financial incentive to donors, instead relying on their willingness to help those in need, much like a blood bank.”

If the very promising efficacy and safety profile of FMT hold up with further study, we might expect to see more requests for this unusual type of donation on bathroom walls and elsewhere.

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