By RICH FOLEY
I recently read a couple of articles about intestinal problems caused by bacteria called Clostridium difficile that result in about 250,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths yearly in the United States, according to a report in the Washington Post. The bacteria can destroy a person’s intestinal lining if not treated and about 30 percent of those affected don’t respond to antibiotics.
What can help many of these patients is something I’d never guess could be used as medicine, but, as always, you can’t argue with results. Bacteria from a healthy person can be transplanted into a sick patient, often fighting off the invading Clostridium difficile within a few days.
It’s where the healthy bacteria come from that tends to make me a bit queasy, even though I have no intestinal problems that I know of. The magic healing bacteria come from, dare I say this in a family newspaper, the defecation of healthy persons. Now you know why I feel queasy.
Previously, the bacteria were transplanted into the sick person’s digestive tract by a colonoscopy or a tube leading from the nose to the stomach, two methods that make death seem slightly less scary by comparison. Luckily for us all, researchers have come up with a much more palatable option that has the same success rate.
The stool sample can now be combined with medical-grade saline and filtered. It’s then concentrated and put into capsules. The patient then merely swallows a tasteless capsule, actually 15 capsules a day for two days, and the treatment is finished. In tests, this alternative returns normal bowel health and function to 90 percent of patients, the same as the colonoscopy or tube options.
That’s great news for those who may have the same affliction in the future. After all, it’s always a good time to not need a colonoscopy.
But I know what you’re thinking: Just where does the “fecal matter” needed for this process come from? Actually, it’s bought from folks who earn up to $13,000 yearly for providing “raw material” they used to literally flush down the toilet.
OpenBiome, a non-profit organization based in Medford, Mass., pays people to come to its facilities and make what I guess we’d have to call a deposit, all in the name of science, of course. According to an article in Men’s Health, OpenBiome pays donors $40 per visit, with an additional $50 weekly bonus to those making a donation five times in one week. That’s $250 per week if you make it to work, presuming you can call it that, every day. Assuming you take two weeks vacation a year, that adds up to $13,000. Skip vacationing and you’re up to $13,500.
The upside is your work day probably doesn’t last more than 30 minutes, if not much less. Some might scoff at a “mere” $250 per week, but for most donors, that probably comes to $200 per hour, more or less, for the time needed to perform your duty. You’d still have plenty of time to pick up another job on the side.
Even better, your budget for toilet paper will plummet as you won’t be needing it at home except on weekends. Since your pay is based on a maximum of five donations a week, I’m guessing OpenBiome is closed Saturday and Sunday. If that’s the case, on weekends you’ll be flushing money down the drain until Monday comes around again.
Just think of the fun you’ll have telling your friends that you poop for pay. On the other hand, I’d suggest waiting a bit before telling potential dates what you do for a living. Here’s where having another job could help save you from having to admit what your morning job entails. That is, if you can even get the job in the first place.
Luckily for those who ultimately receive the donations, OpenBiome has a very extensive screening process to select those allowed to submit their samples for use. Those chosen have to be found to be in extremely good health. As a result, over 95 percent of applicants to the company are rejected for one reason or another.
I’m trying to resist saying the chosen excrement is truly the cream of the crop, but in reality, it’s true. And for many of the patients who finally end up receiving the result of the donations, it often is a lifesaver as well.