Health: Analyzing the ick factor: U of A study looks at deterrents to being a poop donor (Report)

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If you’re looking to make a little extra coin — as well as providing relief for people with health issues — why not donate your poop to science?

That question was central to a study led by a third-year University of Alberta medical student who was interested in finding out why people donate their fecal matter and what barriers deter others from doing so.

The biggest reason, says Breanna McSweeney, is lack of awareness. “A lot of people don’t really know about it,” she told CBC’s Radio Active Thursday.

Currently, the University of Alberta has seven people who are regular donors of stool.

Researchers use the stool samples to treat infections like Clostridium difficile in as many as 300 people across Alberta, where it has a 90 per cent cure rate. They also use the donations to test treatments for a variety of diseases and infections, including irritable bowel syndrome, obesity and even anxiety and depression.

People who have any of those issues aren’t eligible to donate their poop. In other people, their stool may have bacteria present which is harmless to them but may pose a problem to someone else.

McSweeney said only three to 10 per cent of people can be stool donors.

“It’s hard to actually find stool donors,” she said.

That difficulty is compounded by people who don’t donate because of what McSweeney calls “the ‘ick’ factor” — where collecting samples is too much for them to handle.

But she said once people hear what the samples are being used for, they’re much more likely to donate.

“It is disgusting at first,” she said. “But people will get over it if they kind of see what fecal transplant is being used for and how helpful it is.”

The university sweetens the pot for reluctant donors with financial incentives of approximately $5 per donation, McSweeney said.

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