The Dutch Are Opening a Poop Bank to Help Fight a Painful Disease

The Clostridium difficile infection can be treated with poop transplants.

Image of C. difficile via Wikimedia Commons

People in the Netherlands may soon be able to help fight a deadly disease—and all they have to do is donate their poop. A Dutch medical center in Leiden is opening a donor bank for healthy poop, in an effort to fight the prevalence of infection by Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) bacteria in the human digestive tract. The Dutch Donor Feces Bank will be collecting poop samples from healthy donors to help people who suffer from the infection. In the Netherlands, according to CityLab, hospitals admit 3,000 people with C. difficile each year.

C. difficile is an extremely painful condition that can produce diarrhea, stomach pains, and fever. It’s also difficult to treat, because the bacteria are remarkably resistant to most antibiotics (in fact, people often get C. difficile infections after antiobiotic treatments, which, in the process of killing bad batcteria can also destroy good bacteria).

One proven treatment for the infection is fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) therapy, or poop transplants. Taking stool samples from healthy people, doctors deposit them in the patient’s gastrointestinal tract (via colonoscopy) and help reintroduce healthy bacteria to their systems.

The thing is, finding healthy poop is really hard to do! One U.S. organization we wrote about last year, OpenBiome, accepts only about 4 percent of applicants. Which is what makes the Dutch Donor Feces Bank so special—hopefully it will make this kind of treatment much more accessible to the broader public, for both donors and patients. “Stool donation isn’t established yet, in the way that giving blood is,” said Ed Kuijper, from the Leiden Medical Center. “I think it’s a matter of getting used to it.”

Julian Meehan

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