Human feces may perhaps be the greatest untapped monetary resource. Healthy batches of human poop can easily fetch as high as $13,000 a year, besides saving lives.
A nonprofit organization called OpenBiome is in the process of screening and accumulating healthy batches of human excreta since 2013. The company is literally shipping loads of human feces all across the United States.
The company is paying well. At $40 a sample, with a $50 bonus if you come in five days a week, it makes $250 for just a week of donations. Regular donors can potentially make about $13,000 a year just by bagging and sending their feces to OpenBiome.
The frozen variety apparently comes in handy for people who are sick with infections of a bacterium called C. difficile. The bacteria can cause extreme gastrointestinal distress. In many cases, the patients have to remain indoors for extensive amounts of time. While antibiotics can significantly arrest the growth of these bacteria, they are quite resilient and crafty. The bacteria are known to relapse, often quite violently, as soon as the treatment stops. Apart from forcing patients on a never ending ride with the antibiotics that have other undesirable side effects as well, the overall condition and quality of life takes a huge hit.
How is another human’s feces helping? By introducing healthy fecal matter into the gut of a patient (by way of endoscopy, nasal tubes, or swallowed capsules) doctors can effectively abolish C. difficile. Though it may sound like witchcraft or a very bizarre form of treatment, treating patients with human feces is common.
Ironically, finding a donor with a healthy batch of feces is tough. This has forced many patients to undertake some rather desperate measures. Patients suffering from an advanced stage of infection have been known to treat themselves with fecal matter from friends and family. Interestingly, that is exactly what OpenBiome’s founders had to undergo, thereby inspiring them to open up the first nationwide bank that harvests human feces, screens them and sends healthy samples to hospitals that want to administer such a treatment.
So far, OpenBiome has shipped about 2,000 treatments to 185 hospitals around the country. Not a lot of poop is required to treat a patient, but collecting suitable supplies is surprisingly complicated.
Of course, to sell your poop to OpenBiome, you have to go through a rigorous process, apart from being very healthy to begin with. The screening process can cost up to $5,000 — so when someone makes it through, Smith and his co-founders hold on tight. Mark Smith, one of the co-founders confirmed that less than 4 percent of people who have expressed their interest make it through.
Though human feces is currently being used only for treating patients suffering from C. difficile, OpenBiome is providing its samples to a number of trials exploring other uses.
[Image Credit | OpenBiome]