“Super-poopers” are in demand as their stools have been found to medically benefit people receiving faecal transplants – and we have so many questions. How does it all work? What is a poo transplant? And who are these people blessed with such great guts?
Poo transplants can be a successful treatment for recurrent gut problems such as ulcerative colitis – and new research suggests “super stools” can lead to substantial clinical improvements in transplant recipients with other bowel issues, too.
How Does A Poo Transplant Work?
A poo transplant – more formally known as faecal microbiota transplant (FMT) – involves transferring bacteria from a healthy donor’s prepared and processed stool to the intestine of a patient with gut problems.
The aim is to restore a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut of the transplant recipient.
Donors are anonymous and screened in advance to test for viral, bacterial and parasitic infections – you can sign up at some UK hospitals, as well as private clinics.
One such clinic is Taymount, which regularly screens donors, all who undergo detailed laboratory tests every three months. Donors are obliged to follow a “high-nutrient, probiotic and pre-biotic rich” diet. They should be non-smokers, with a “slim body disposition”, well-functioning digestive system, and they should not be taking antibiotics.
What Makes Someone A Super-Pooper?
Super-donors have something in their poo which is rich in bacteria and enhances metabolism – they have what’s called a “higher microbial diversity” than your average poo. Viruses, immunity and diet also influence the success rate of being a super-donor.
Claudia Campenella, 31, is a vegan donor whose faeces is reportedly teeming with “good” bugs. She told the BBC: “Some of my friends think it is a bit weird or disgusting, but it doesn’t worry me. It’s very easy to donate and I just want to help with medical research. I’m glad to contribute.”
Why Do We Need Super-Poopers?
Traditionally with poo transplants, the overall cure rate for diarrhoeal infections exceeds 90%. Other conditions, like inflammatory bowel disease and type 2 diabetes, average nearer 20%.
Yet new trials show these success rates improve with super-poopers. “The pattern of success in these trials demonstrates the existence of ‘super-donors’, whose stool is particularly likely to influence the host gut and to lead to clinical improvement,” said Dr Justin O’Sullivan of the University of Auckland, who conducted studies on the topic.
“Transplants from super-donors achieve clinical remission rates of perhaps double the remaining average.”
It’s worth noting not all faecal transplants work – even with super-poopers. This could be because of a genetic difference between the donor and the recipient, researchers suggested.
Could Super-Poopers Help Treat Cancer And Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, cancers, asthma, allergies and heart disease are all associated with changes to gut bacteria as well, so understanding what makes a super-pooper could be a pretty big deal.
“Our hope is that if we can discover how this happens, then we can improve the success of faecal transplantation and even trial it for new microbiome-associated conditions like Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and asthma,” said Dr O’Sullivan.
“The last two decades have seen a growing list of medical conditions associated with changes in the microbiome ― bacteria, viruses and fungi, especially in the gut.”
Can You Change Your Poo Composition?
Yes, to an extent – you can improve your microbiome by switching up your diet. “It has been shown that a rapid change in diet, such as a switch from an animal-based to an exclusively plant-based diet, can alter the composition of the gut microbiota within 24 hours,” said Dr O’Sullivan.