Need some cash? Just sell your poop. Yes, you read that right. A company called OpenBiome needs healthy stool samples that it uses to treat patients with a bacterial infection called C. difficile. Should you choose to sell it, your poop will be turned into a pill to treat those patients and you’ll bring home about $250 each week, or $13,000 a year.
OpenBiome has been processing and shipping these capsules full of healthy poop since 2013. The bacteria, C. difficile, leaves its victims in severe gastrointestinal distress. Although antibiotics help, once the antibiotics are out of the patient’s system, the bacteria often returns. That’s where the poop comes in.
“By introducing healthy fecal matter into the gut of a patient (by way of endoscopy, nasal tubes, or swallowed capsules) doctors can abolish C. difficile for good,” according to the Washington Post. “Finding a donor is tough business, and some patients grow so desperate that they treat themselves with fecal matter from friends and family. That’s what happened to a friend of OpenBiome’s founders, inspiring them to open up the first nationwide bank. So far they’ve shipped about 2,000 treatments to 185 hospitals around the country.”
If you can give a sample, you’ll get $40 per sample. And if you come in every day, you get a $50 bonus. But, it is hard to become a donor; more difficult than “getting into MIT,” according to company co-founder, Mark Smith. Of the 1,000 or so people who have expressed interest, only four percent make it through the extensive medical questioning and stool testing. Since it costs $5,000 to screen a potential donor, once they find a match, OpenBiome hopes to keep them.
“We get most of our donors to come in three or four times a week, which is pretty awesome,” Smith said. “You’re usually helping three or four patients out with each sample, and we keep track of that and let you know.” While C. difficile is the only disease that is currently being treated in this way, there is potential for other conditions—such as obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, perhaps even autism—to be treated with the gut flora of healthy people.
Photos by OpenBiome