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Public Stool Bank Makes FMT More Accessible

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but could one man’s waste be another man’s cure? That certainly seems to be the case, as Mark B. Smith, Ph.D., of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his colleagues continue to develop the first ever public stool bank, OpenBiome.

Smith became inspired to develop OpenBiome after watching a friend struggle through 18 months of C. difficile, also known as C. diff, and seven rounds of vancomycin with no relief in sight. Fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) seemed like a viable option, but the screening and development process is so involved that very few hospitals offered it at the time. Smith’s friend eventually found one of three doctors in the New York area who could perform the procedure, but after being placed on a waiting list, he grew impatient and underwent the risky process of performing the procedure at home using a stool sample from his roommate. He was lucky enough to have a favorable outcome, but Smith knew something had to be done.

C. diff is the most common hospital-acquired infection. Approximately 500,000 people are infected each year, and 14,000 die from this aggressive breed of intestinal bacteria. FMT is an extremely promising treatment, which involves taking stool from a healthy donor and administering it to the patient through an enema, nasogastric tube or colonoscopy. The stool sample reintroduces healthy bacteria to the colon, helping the patient to develop a bacterial balance in the gut. The procedure is effective in 90 percent of C. diff cases, but finding a donor and a participating hospital has been extremely challenging (Source: MIT Be Writing Lab). OpenBiome is quickly changing that.

Thus far, they have provided 850 treatments to 91 hospitals in 31 states, and 82 percent of Americans are now within a four-hour drive of a participating hospital. Smith hopes that OpenBiome will be a turning point in treatment for C. diff (Source: Healio). “For the first time, clinicians will be able to offer FMT for C. diff patients not responding to standard therapy without the need to develop in-house screening and processing methods,” Smith said. “This will reduce the difficulty of providing this treatment to patients in need and also marks a significant improvement in the safety and rigor of previously presented methods for screening and processing donor stool."

You can learn more about OpenBiome and their latest developments at http://www.openbiome.org.