London

Fecal philanthropist donates poop to save lives

Healthcare professionals have put out an open call for poop donors at St. Joseph's Health Care London, where fecal transplants have become a routine procedure used to treat potentially life-threatening C. difficile, a cause of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

Donors are compensated $50 per drop-off to cover parking and travel expenses.

John Chmiel donates his feces to save lives. (St. Joseph’s Health Care London)

A London, Ont. man has a peculiar way of paying his bills, or collecting a bit of extra pocket change. 

He sells his poop, and he's not the only one.

"Essentially you end up just pooping onto a plate and then scooping that into a collection tube and then dropping it off. It's as simple as that," said John Chmiel.

Chmiel, who studies immunology and microbiology, said it's less about the money, and more about saving lives. 

Healthcare professionals have put out an open call for poop donors at St. Joseph's Health Care London, where fecal transplants have become a routine procedure used to treat potentially life-threatening C. difficile, a cause of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

"This is not just a mild diarrhea. This is, as they would say,  diarrhea from hell," said Dr. Michael Silverman, medical director of St. Joseph's Infectious Diseases Care Program.

After a course of antibiotics, healthy gut bacteria can be killed, which causes the illness, he said.

"We take bacteria from this healthy poop that John and others produce, and we process it to get rid of anything that's not critical, and then put them in capsules."

Dr. Michael Silverman, Medical Director of St. Joseph’s Infectious Diseases Care Program. (St. Joseph’s Health Care London)

Down the hatch

Patients usually take the fecal transplant orally, in the form of capsules, although other options are available. According to Silverman, patients generally choose to take the capsules out of preference to avoid a more invasive option involving a colonoscopy.

Oral capsules, which are odourless and flavourless, also have the added benefit of delivering healthy bacteria directly to the entire digestive system, rather than just the colon.

As it turns out, fecal implants could potentially be the key to treating a number of medical conditions. There are trials and studies in the works, looking at the use of fecal matter to combat certain kinds of cancer, arteriosclerosis, and certain autoimmune diseases.

As for donors, Silverman says the requirements are relatively simple.

"We're looking for healthy people between 18 and 50 who are not on any medications, who don't have any significant medical conditions, to make a huge difference in people's lives," he said.

Meanwhile, John Chmiel says at the very least, he has plenty of interesting conversations about his donations, which net him $50 per drop-off.

"It's a great ice breaker to meet new people and tell them that you donate poop, and they're really thrown off."

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alessio Donnini

Reporter/Editor

Alessio is a Sarnia-born, London-raised multimedia journalist. Graduating from Fanshawe College's Broadcast Journalism program, he's worked in markets from Toronto to Windsor, and has a love for all things news. In his free time, he can be found enjoying a good book, watching a documentary, or learning to cook a new recipe.

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