Bank in Massachusetts Will Pay You $40 a Day for Your Poo


Massachusetts residents can now make a modest living out of their own bodily functions – by donating a sample of their poo. An independent non-profit stool bank called OpenBiome is willing to offer volunteers $40 per deposit, and what’s more, it’s all for a good cause. The stool samples will be used for fecal transplants, to fight the deadly superbug C. difficile, which affects more than 500,000 and kills 14,000 Americans per year.

If you’re wondering about fecal transplants, you can read all about the life-saving procedure in this feature we did a couple of years ago. At the time, there was only one doctor in the UK to have ever performed the transplant. Now, it seems that the treatment has become more popular and people are being invited to generously donate their poo at the OpenBiome stool bank.

Stool transplants are being praised by many doctors as a miracle cure for C. difficile, a bacterial infection that most commonly affects hospital patients. It causes fever, painful cramps, severe diarrhoea, and in some cases, life-threatening complications such as severe swelling of the bowel. Patients with recurring episodes are ill for several months, and only have a 75 percent chance of survival.

Thankfully, stool transplants from healthy donors have worked wonders – especially when all other treatments, even antibiotics, have failed. It helps restore the balance of good bacteria in the gut, which are highly effective in fighting infections. If the treatment is successful, the patient starts to feel better almost immediately.

In order to be a donor, you need to be between 18 and 50 years of age, have regular bowel movements and be willing to make 30-minute trips every day to the OpenBiome laboratory in Medford, Massachusetts. At least four donations a week are mandatory, if you choose to register as a donor. If you come in five days a week, you could receive an extra $50.

Prospective donors also receive $40 for getting tested – these tests include filling out a detailed medical questionnaire, having your stool tested for infections, and your blood tested for HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Once you are chosen as a donor, there are several other incentives to look forward to – including clever nicknames like ‘super pooper’, ‘Vladimir Pootin’, or ‘Winnie the Poo’. OpenBiome also encourages its donors to stay healthy by eating plenty of fibre.

OpenBiome was founded by MIT postdoctoral associate Mark Smith in 2012, after he witnessed a family member suffer for 18 months before receiving a life-saving fecal transplant. “Think of us as a blood bank, but for poop,” he explained. “You shouldn’t have to fly across the country to get poop.” OpenBiome works with gastroenterologists and other specialists to make sure stool samples are delivered to various towns and cities within a four-hour radius.

Mark also revealed that each 250-milligram stool sample is sold to hospitals and independent doctors for $250, and it can  be used to treat up to five patients. “From the cost perspective, it’s a really effective treatment for patients who aren’t responding to antibiotics,” he explained. Fecal transplants can save, on average, $17,000 per patient when compared with antibiotic treatments.

And if patients aren’t able to receive a proper transplant, they could even opt to swallow capsules of frozen feces from healthy people. The pills provide an alternative to a more uncomfortable, invasive faecal transplant operation (usually a colonoscopy or an enema). The pills have successfully cured 18 out of 20 patients who took part in a study at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

In emergency situations, stools from a donor (ideally a family member) could also be mixed with saline solution and transferred by a tube through the patient’s nose, directly into the bowel. It might sound disturbing, but it is a safe and highly effective treatment that is known to save lives.

As wonderful as the treatment is, it is yet to be implemented worldwide. Mark says that this is because there are still a few challenges with how insurance companies reimburse it. “The real challenge is that right now it’s still categorized as an explorational drug by the FDA,” he said. “Until that changes it’s really not going to find universal adoption.”