No, I’m not kidding: some people earn up to $13,000 a year selling their poop.
A company called OpenBiome in Medford, Mass., uses the poop to help physicians around the country treat patients infected with Clostridium difficile, a cheeky little bacterium that can be tough to eradicate solely by traditional means like antibiotics.
Since a C. difficile infection can cause a range of symptoms — from severe diarrhea to kidney failure and even death — OpenBiome is happy to pay donors $40 per sample (with a $50 bonus if you come in five days a week) to help introduce healthy bacteria to patients’ gastrointestinal tracts, where C. difficile thrives.
Beyond the cash, which comes out to a neat $13,000 per year with the regular weekly bonus, your poop will actually save lives. About 90% of patients are cured, according to OpenBiome, which means they no longer need to memorize mall layouts to determine optimal restroom options.
How to Sell Your Poop
Don’t drop it like it’s hot just yet! To be eligible to join the registry and start the screening process, potential donors must meet the following criteria:
1. Commit to donating at least four times per week for a 60-day period
2. Be between 18 and 50 years old
3. Have a BMI less than 30 (calculate yours here)
4. Have limited recent foreign travel; donors must not have traveled outside the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan in the past year.
Meet these criteria? You’re not on the list just yet. You also can’t become a donor until you’ve passed the following steps:
Join the Stool Donor Registry via a 12-question survey. At the moment, OpenBiome is only accepting donors who work or live near its lab in Medford, Mass.
You’ll be asked to come to the lab, meet and interview with the chief medical officer, and answer a medical questionnaire. Don’t be nervous! The questions will be fairly standard, similar to ones you’d answer before donating plasma or blood.
Undergo a stool screen and blood screen. Ack! Yes, this process will involve needles and pooping in a cup. It’s all for a good cause … and a payday!
This step isn’t required for each donation; both the blood and the stool screen don’t need to be repeated until you’ve reached your 60-day tenure.
If all of the results check out, get that fiber ready — you’re in! Let the pooping commence. You’ll head to the lab to make your donations at least four days each week.
As I mentioned, you’ll need to undergo another round of blood and stool testing 60 days after your first donation. If the results check out, the stool collected in your first 60 days will be released to treat actual patients.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t pass muster. Only 4% of 1,000 possible donors were approved to donate, according to The Washington Post. But don’t let that stop you from applying! If your stool services are declined, at least you’ll know the state of your own gut microbiome.
What If I’m Not in Massachusetts?
You may have to wait a bit to become a donor. But hopefully not that long.
OpenBiome is the country’s first official bank of fecal microbiota preparations, and although Lawrence J. Brandt, MD, notes that the first fecal transplantation was performed in humans all the way back in 1958, it’s clear the field is still relatively unplowed and has a lot of potential.
Its use in C. Difficile infections is well-known, but according to Brandt, “Clinicians have limited experience using fecal transplantation for a variety of gastroenterologic diseases — including ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome and idiopathic constipation — and studies are now being conducted in these areas.”
“I know of case series, case reports and several unreported cases in which fecal therapy has been used to treat non-gastrointestinal diseases, including insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, morbid obesity, Parkinson disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and autism.”
More uses for this procedure mean there’ll be a market for more samples. Based on the untapped potential for this kind of treatment, we’re definitely going to need a bigger boat … of poop.
Maybe you can just hold it a little longer?
Your Turn: Would you try to sell your poop?
Raina Keefer is writer and editor at Quickwitwriter LLC (www.quickwitwriter.com).