Synthetic Shit Transplants

But faecal transplants have hardly become common practice. The procedure faces regulatory hurdles since it doesn't involve a typical drug or device. By its nature, it is very hard to standardise and test through randomised clinical trials -- the gold standard of medicine. There are concerns about spreading new diseases along with the helpful bacteria. The stool needs to be freshly collected and used within several hours. And, understandably, there's the "ick factor" (for that reason, many people prefer that the donor be a spouse or relative).

To circumvent these obstacles, Elaine Petrof and Gregory Gloor from Kingston General Hospital in Ontario have developed a pseudo-poo -- a blend of 33 different gut bacteria that mimics the community found in a healthy gut. This "stool substitute" can be cooked up again and again according to the same recipe, and infused into patients without any of the extra faecal matter that makes such transplants so viscerally off-putting or potentially dangerous. Think of it as a rectally applied yoghurt. [...]

Petrof and Gloor based their substitute on the gut bacteria of a healthy 41-year-old woman. They isolated 62 species from her bowels and excluded any that showed even mild signs of antibiotic resistance -- those aren't microbes you want to be deliberately applying to someone's gut. Thirty-three species remained, which Petrof and Gloor balanced according to their typical proportions in a healthy gut.

The result is a standardised bacterial broth that's clear of any other disease-causing microbes or viruses, and that can be applied as an enema. (I can go for years without reading the words "drizzled throughout the transverse colon as the colonoscope was withdrawn" in a paper again.)

Previously, previously.

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8 Responses:

  1. David M.A. says:

    "Think of it as a rectally applied yoghurt."

    Yes, because that's not already someone's fetish.

  2. James says:

    Firstly, there are typically 300-500 species of gut flora in a healthy adult. And the science writers who try to pretend they've avoided trends in porn over the past couple decades aren't fooling anyone.

  3. Pavel Lishin says:

    > And, understandably, there's the "ick factor" (for that reason, many people prefer that the donor be a spouse or relative).

    Maybe it's just me and the fact that I already have pieces of a random dead person's bone inside me, but I'd rather it be a stranger.

    On the other hand, if the donor was a spouse or relative, I could walk up to them at social events, stare them in the eyes, and whisper, "You're inside me, now" and walk away, leaving them to try and explain the awkward situation I just put them in.

    Oh, decisions, decisions.

  4. As someone with IBS, this is actually welcome news if it could cure it.

  5. phuzz says:

    I'm sure I remember a story about the Russians trying to cultivate the gut flora from a cosmonaut who had suffered very little from space sickness, to try and pass that on to less fortunate cosmonauts.
    However, I can't find anything on the internets, so maybe I'm just wrong, however, I did discover the following gem on wikipedia:

    NASA jokingly measures SAS using the "Garn scale", named for United States Senator Jake Garn, whose SAS during STS-51-D was the worst on record. Accordingly, one "Garn" is equivalent to the most severe possible case of SAS.

    (SAS == Space Adaptation Syndrome)

    • Pavel Lishin says:

      Garn asked to fly on the Space Shuttle because he was head of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that dealt with NASA, and had extensive aviation experience. He had previously flown a B-2 Spirit prototype and driven a new Army tank

      "I drove a tank, how hard can the space shuttle be?"

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