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Fecal donors to stem Swedes' diarrhoea woes

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Fecal donors to stem Swedes' diarrhoea woes
12:20 CEST+02:00
A Swedish hospital has launched a drive to collect donations of human faeces in order to treat patients with chronic cases of diarrhoea, a practice relatively common in the US and elsewhere.

Swedes travel more than ever and many spend their winters in countries such as Thailand and India where stomach upsets are a common travellers' complaint.

"I had to take super duper strength antibiotics to kill a parasite I'd brought home from India," Elizabeth, 32, who did not want to use her surname, told The Local.

"The nurse warned me that it could take up to two years to rebuild my gut flora, and frankly, I've never been the same since. It's better, but not great," she added.

The use of faeces from a healthy donor to assist a sickly patient is common practice in the US and other countries and treatment typically involves a relative as donor. Elizabeth however told The Local that lifestyle issues and social stigma meant she was unable to approach a family member.

"Almost every adult member of my stressed, workaholic family has their own stomach problems, the only one I could ask is my 17-year-old niece, and frankly, it doesn't matter that it's a medically proven method, I'm scared I'd scar her for life."

A new donation group set up at Jönköping hospital with a team of volunteer anonymous donors aims to address this stigma and provide a steady flow of human waste for transplants, Sveriges Television (SVT) reported on Tuesday.

The idea of being injected with a stranger's faeces presents its own challenges however, Elizabeth told The Local.

"A donor, I don't know, that's icky in its own way," she said.

The process requires thorough testing of a donor's faeces and the donation group expedites this by ensuring that there is a pool of healthy people ready to deliver. The process is tried and tested and Elisabeth Norin, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute, told SVT that the method is successful in 80 percent of cases.

While effective, the treatment presents challenges to medical practitioners as the faeces samples are reported to have a less than fragrant aroma and it is hoped that in the future the transplant can be administered in the form of a poo pill.

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