OpenBiome is a new organization offering people the chance to make up to $13,000 a year selling their feces, while they assist advancing medical research.
Stool samples are frozen for transport, and placed within patients experiencing infections of the bacteria Clostridium difficile. This condition can result in painful abdominal cramps, which can often keep patients housebound for periods of time. Treatment with antibiotics can be effective in the short term, but the bacteria often return en masse after treatment ceases.
Healthy fecal matter is transplanted into infected patients through nasal tubes, the use of flexible tube inside the intestine, or through consumption of a pill. Finding poop donors has been tough for organizations working to provide treatment for patients suffering from C. difficile infections (CDI).
OpenBiome pays donors $40 per sample, plus a $50 bonus for those who donate five times a week. A person providing samples five days a week could earn $13,000 a year from the company. However, an extensive medical screening is required for potential donors. Of the first 1,000 people to apply to the program, just 40 met the requirements.
"However hundreds of treatments in many independent institutions, fecal transplantation, which reconstitutes the healthy gut community, has been shown to cure over 90% of the most recalcitrant C. difficile cases that had previously failed standard antibiotic therapy," OpenBiome managers wrote on their Web site.
Slightly less than two ounces of fecal matter is required to treat each patient, meaning an average donation usually helps three or four patients. Most donors, once they are accepted into the program, provide three or four samples every week to the program.
"[P]atients can get sick from C. difficile picked up from contaminated surfaces or spread from a health care provider's hands. Those most at risk are people, especially older adults, who take antibiotics and also get medical care," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials wrote on their Web site.
OpenBiome managers claim that between 14,000 and 30,000 Americans die each year from CDI. The bacteria are found in soil, as well as animal droppings. Many people carry the bacteria in their systems, without showing symptoms of infection. Healthy people do not usually acquire infections of the bacteria, but antibiotics can kill healthy bacteria, providing C. difficile with a chance to take hold in the body.
"Everyone thinks it's great that they're making money doing such an easy thing. But they also love to hear us say, 'Look, your poop just helped this lady who's been sick for nine years go to her daughter's graduation,'" Carolyn Edelstein, co-founder of OpenBiome, said.