Australia is the first country in the world to approve a product derived from donor faecal matter, in short, poop, which will be used to carry out faecal matter transplants (faecal matter transplant, FMT) of healthy subjects in the intestines of sick patients. For now, the treatment has only been approved for those who have contracted aninfection from Clostridium difficile (also called antibiotic-associated colitis), a life-threatening disease that causes severe diarrhea and often spreads in hospitals. To give the announcement of approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA, the Australian equivalent of our Italian Medicines Agency, AIFA) was BiomeBank, the manufacturer of the biological “drug”.
FMT operations are nothing new: in Australia they have been practiced for years, and recently also the US FDA, the body that regulates food and pharmaceutical products, he recommended them. However, the approval of the TGA regulates the practice, guaranteeing a pharmaceutical standard.
How does it work? The process is quite simple: once collected, the donor fecal matter comes blended (literally!) and tested to ensure no pathogens are present. The next step is to take a sample of it and insert it into the patient’s gastrointestinal tract through a colonoscope. For now this is the only method available, but BiomeBank is working on a pill that could be taken orally.
In the intestines of each of us there is a microbiota composed of thousands of species of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microorganisms: this mass of matter can weigh up to 2 kg.
Like a rainforest. Sam Forster, an expert on the subject, explains the matter in even simpler terms: «It is as if the intestine, damaged by antibiotics or other treatments, were a rain forest razed to the ground in which the “sprouts” of bacteria Clostridium difficile, which begin to produce toxins. Transplanting faecal matter is therefore equivalent to reforesting the area, preventing the “weeds” from thriving.
The most difficult part of the process is finding donors: they must be healthy, not immunocompromised, not suffering from chronic gastrointestinal diseases and must not have taken antibiotics recently.
In the future. The next step is to create an artificial version of fecal matter, reproducible on a large scale and with the right characteristics to fight specific diseases: «Our main ambition is to create a lab-grown version of the product», he explains to the Guardian Sam Costello, CEO of BiomeBank, underlining how this innovation would make it possible to no longer depend on donors.
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Can you donate your poop? – Focus.it
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