The average person makes a number two once each day. Each time, you could be flushing a small fortune down the toilet. It sounds incredible, but it’s true!
It all boils down to a deadly intestinal disease caused by Clostridium difficile, or C. difficile. Half a million people contracted C. difficile in 2011, and of those people, about six percent died within 30 days.
Even among those who survive, the prospects aren’t great. They face recurring bouts of debilitating digestive symptoms. Traditional treatments focusing on constant rounds of antibiotics are expensive and unsustainable. Plus, they often simply don’t work. That’s where you (and your poo) come in. You can make a stool donation for money and help somebody who needs fecal microbiota therapy.
What Is Fecal Microbiota Therapy and How Does It Work?
Have you ever seen the probiotic pills that claim to recolonize your gut with beneficial bacteria?
That’s essentially what fecal microbiota therapy (FMT) is — a massive dose of beneficial microbes straight from a healthy person’s poo.
It sounds gross, but for those who suffer from this disease, it’s often the only thing that works. Ninety percent of patients who receive fecal therapy are completely cured, and it comes at a fraction of the cost of traditional treatments.
One of my good friends had a C. difficile infection that lasted for six months. He eventually sought out FMT on his own after his doctor refused to help him. “My doctor was very against it and just wanted to keep giving me more antibiotics, even though it clearly wasn't working,” he says. But after he received the therapy, he was completely normal within a week.
It’s expensive and time-consuming to find a donor, and C. difficile infections are constantly popping up. It’s a big problem. OpenBiome, a non-profit group, recently formed to address the need for reliable, safe, and cost-effective FMT and microbiota research, would like the healthy members of the public to help.
How to Donate Feces for Money
If you’re a healthy person in the Boston area, you’re eligible to become a stool donor. Fair warning: As with many other donation processes, it requires a lot of work. But the rewards are well worth your time.
First, you’ll need to pass an online assessment. After that, you’ll need to go into their office for an in-depth health questionnaire. You’ll also need to complete a round of tests.
If you’re lucky enough to make it past all three screenings, you’re welcomed into the program for two months. After that, you’ll have to complete the screening processes again.
It’s a lot of work, but it ensures that the patients you’re helping are receiving stool donations that won't hurt them further by introducing yet another disease. According to Kelly Ling, the donor manager for OpenBiome, only 2.8 percent of potential donors actually manage to pass all the screenings.
What Happens After You Pass the Screenings?
Once you make it past the screening process, you’re encouraged to come in every day. You can either do the duty at your own home or at OpenBiome’s office. After you finish, you fill out a mini health questionnaire for each sample and drop it off with the staff.
From there, OpenBiome processes donations that meet a minimum set of standards. To date, there’s never been an issue with any of the organization's FMT preparations. However, they still hold back a portion of each donation for testing in case a problem ever does occur.
Donors are also free to leave the program whenever they please. The average donor sticks around for four to six months, although some people have lasted for years.
The Benefits of Stool Donation for Money
Attracting and retaining donors can be a difficult business, so OpenBiome works hard to keep their donors happy. One part of that program inolves generous compensation. For each accepted stool donation, OpenBiome rewards donors with $40. They also use a stamp card to reward donors for good behavior. Each time you drop off a donation, go through a screening, or notify them of a health issue, you’ll get a stamp. Collect 10 stamps, and you’ll get a $25 gift card. If you donate five times a week, that adds up to over $11,000 over the course of a year!
Aside from the financial windfall, you can also be proud helping people suffering from devastating C. difficile infections and promote microbiota research. “They're not just donating because they're compensated,” says Ling. “Your daily routine is saving lives. Every one of their stool samples could treat up to five or ten patients. That's really incredible.”
OpenBiome is not currently looking to expand to new locations, according to Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate Alex Scheeler. But as fecal therapy gains more acceptance and OpenBiome forms more research partnerships, they expect to need more donors. “Demand continues to increase,” Scheeler says, “so we’re always looking for new donors to ensure that we can continue to meet demand in the future!”