Posts Tagged ‘feces’

by MIKE MCRAE

Transforming the microbial environment in the guts of children diagnosed with autism could significantly ease the severity of their condition’s signature traits, according to newly published research.

A study on the effects of a form of faecal transplant therapy in children on the autism spectrum found participants not only experienced fewer gut problems, but continued to show ongoing improvements in autism symptoms two years after the procedure.

Arizona State University researchers had already discovered a dose of healthy gut microflora caused characteristics associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to ease or vanish for at least a couple of months after treatment ended.

But to be taken seriously as a potential therapy, there needed to be long term improvements. So a return to the original group of volunteers for another check-up was in order.

It turned out those new microbes were settling in nicely.

“In our original paper in 2017, we reported an increase in gut diversity together with beneficial bacteria after microbiota transfer therapy (MTT), and after two years, we observed diversity was even higher and the presence of beneficial microbes remained,” says biotechnologist Dae-Wook Kang.

The gut might seem like an odd place to start in developing therapies that assist individuals with a neurological condition such as autism.

But in addition to its defining characteristics of impaired social and communication skills, sensory challenges, and reduced core strength and motor control, for up to half of those with ASD the condition can come with a bunch of gut problems.

“Many kids with autism have gastrointestinal problems, and some studies, including ours, have found that those children also have worse autism-related symptoms,” says environmental engineer Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown.

Previous studies have repeatedly pointed to the potential benefits of swapping out a ‘bad’ microbial communities for a better one, either through using probiotics or courses of antibiotics.

Most showed promising short-term effects, suggesting there was more to be explored when it comes to gut-based therapies.

“In many cases, when you are able to treat those gastrointestinal problems, their behaviour improves,” says Krajmalnik-Brown.

In an attempt to elicit a more long-term result, the researchers pulled out the big guns. Forget dropping in a few microbial tourists or killing off a handful of trouble-makers – they went for a whole mass migration.

Using a customised process of gut microflora transplantation called microbiota transfer therapy, the researchers gave 18 kids aged between 7 and 16 a belly full of new microorganisms.

All of the volunteers had both an autism diagnosis and moderate to severe gastrointestinal problems. This group was compared with 20 equivalent control subjects who had neither gut problems nor an ASD diagnosis.

Both were treated for 10 weeks and then had follow-up test sessions for a further 8 weeks.

Admittedly, the experiment wasn’t blinded, so we do need to be cautious in how we read into the results. Placebo effects can’t be ruled out in cases like this.

But saying they were ‘promising’ isn’t too strong a claim to make. The children not only experienced an 80 percent reduction in gastrointestinal symptoms, they showed significant improvements when tested with common ASD diagnostic tools.

Two years later, those same tests indicate the conditions have only improved.

“The team’s new publication reports that the study demonstrated that two years after treatment stopped the participants still had an average of a 58 percent reduction in GI symptoms compared to baseline,” says Krajmalnik-Brown.

“In addition, the parents of most participants reported a slow but steady improvement in core ASD symptoms.”

An external evaluation using a standard ASD diagnostic tool concluded 83 percent of the initial test group could be considered as severe on the autistic spectrum. Two years later, this dropped to just 17 percent.

Amazingly, 44 percent no longer made the cut-off for being on the mild end of the spectrum at all.

Overall, the evaluator determined the severity of ASD traits was reduced by 47 percent compared with their baseline.

For a therapy that has barely any side-effects, and such remarkable improvements in challenges many with ASD struggle with, it’s surely a treatment that will continue to attract attention for further research.

Faecal transplants might sound a little gross, but you might as well get used to them. We’re bound to be seeing them used for a variety of things in the future, from treating superbugs to winning sports.

Now that we’re learning our neurological health is intimately connected with our digestive system, transplanting microbial communities from a healthy gut is seen as the next big thing in treating brain disorders.

This isn’t to say microflora cause autism. It’s a complex condition that has its roots in a diverse range of genes and environmental influences that nudge the brain’s development early in life.

But if we can swap out even a few of those influences, we just might be able to make life a little easier for those who need it.

This research was published in Scientific Reports.

https://www.sciencealert.com/autism-severity-cut-in-half-in-kids-who-underwent-radical-faecal-transplant-therapy

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Instead of flushing millions down the toilet, humans could be mining their poop for gold.

That’s at least what some researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) think. They’re looking for ways to squeeze metals like gold and silver out of solid waste.

When poop arrives at a wastewater treatment plant, it is separated into biosolids and treated water. Inevitably about half of the biosolids (3.5 million tons in the United States alone) is sent to landfills or incinerated, while the other half is used as fertilizer.

Kathleen Smith, a USGS geologist, thinks people could make more of these biosolids; they’re full of tiny particles of metals that find their way into waste through beauty products, detergents and even odor-resistant clothing.

There are two good reasons to try to pull these metals out of poop, according to Smith, who’s presenting her research on the subject at an American Chemical Society meeting this week.

“If you can get rid of some of the nuisance metals that currently limit how much of these biosolids we can use on fields and forests, and at the same time recover valuable metals and other elements, that’s a win-win,” Smith explained in a statement.

The same chemicals (called leachates) that miners use to pull metals out of rock could be safely used to pull metals from waste, Smith and her colleagues found. The researchers have examined waste samples from small towns in the Rocky Mountains, as well as in rural areas and cities. They detected some sizable concentrations of platinum, silver and gold when they looked at their samples under a scanning electron microscope, they reported.

“The gold we found was at the level of a minimal mineral deposit,” Smith said. In other words, if that level of gold were observed in rock, it would be considered a potential mining prospect.

It’s not just gold that could be mined and sold. Waste contains elements like vanadium and copper that could be used in devices such as cellphones and computers, the researchers said.

The economic value of poop mining is still unclear, but some recent projections have been promising. Earlier this year, another group of researchers published a paper in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, estimating that metals extracted from poop in a population of 1 million people could yield $13 million per year.

http://www.livescience.com/50235-solid-gold-poop-could-yield-precious-metals.html

The plant, called the Omniprocessor, was designed and built by Janicki Bioenergy and backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The facility would try to prevent diseases caused by contaminated water supplies.

A test plant is up and working at Janicki’s headquarters north of Seattle, according to a blog post by Gates. The first operational plant is planned for Senegal.

“The next-generation processor, more advanced than the one I saw, will handle waste from 100,000 people, producing up to 86,000 liters of potable water a day and a net 250 kw of electricity,” he wrote. “If we get it right, it will be a good example of how philanthropy can provide seed money that draws bright people to work on big problems, eventually creating a self-supporting industry.”

Included is a video of him drinking a glass of the water produced by the plant, which he describes as “delicious” and “as good as any I’ve had out of the bottle.”

“Having studied the engineering behind it, I would happily drink it every day. It’s that safe,” he writes on the post.

The feces is heated to 1000 degrees Celsius, or 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit to draw off the water, which is then further treated to make sure it is safe. But the dried out feces can then be burned, producing enough heat to generate electricity needed to extract the water. Excess electricity can be sold to outside users, as can the water.

Gates says diseases caused by poor sanitation kill some 700,000 children every year. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is making an effort to improve sanitation in the developing world.

“Today, in many places without modern sewage systems, truckers take the waste from latrines and dump it into the nearest river or the ocean—or at a treatment facility that doesn’t actually treat the sewage,” he wrote. “Either way, it often ends up in the water supply.”

http://money.cnn.com/2015/01/07/technology/innovationnation/gates-poop-water/index.html

BY Erika Engelhaupt

A new nonprofit called OpenBiome is hoping to do for fecal transplants what blood banks have done for transfusions. It’s a kind of Brown Cross.

And it’s an idea whose time has come. Recent trials testing transplants of fecal microbes from the healthy to the sick have been so promising that people are attempting dangerous do-it-yourself fecal transplants by enema, for lack of access to authorized medical procedures.

Graduate students Carolyn Edelstein and Mark B. Smith got the idea for OpenBiome after a friend had trouble getting a fecal transplant to treat an infection with Clostridium difficile. The bacterium causes dangerous, even fatal, diarrhea and in an increasing number of cases is resistant to antibiotics.

People tend to get C. difficile infections after antibiotics or chemotherapy has knocked out helpful bacteria, allowing what is normally a background player to take over. Transplants of fecal bacteria from healthy donors can help reset the microbiome, the mix of bacteria in the body, and crowd out C. difficile. A 2011 review of 317 patients treated for C. difficile found that fecal transplants cleared up infections in 92 percent of patients. And more recent research showed that taking a round of pills containing bacteria isolated from fecal matter (without the feces itself) resolved C. difficile infections in all of 32 patients treated.

There’s also interest in transplanting healthy fecal microbiomes into people with inflammatory bowel disease or even obesity. In one recent test, mice implanted with fecal microbes from thin humans stayed thin, while mice given bacteria from obese people gained weight.

But the transplants are hard to get. As Edelstein and Smith’s friend learned, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires lots of paperwork for the experimental therapy, and donor feces has to be screened for a host of potential pathogens.

That’s where OpenBiome steps in. The nonprofit offers hospitals fecal samples for $250 that have been prescreened to ensure they are free of pathogens and parasites. Since October, they’ve sent more than 100 samples to a dozen hospitals and clinics, according to an interview with Smith in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Edelstein, who’s studying public affairs at Princeton, and Smith, who’s studying microbiology at MIT, recruited friends and donors and negotiated permissions with the FDA to set up the organization, which houses its samples at MIT. OpenBiome is also offering to collaborate with researchers for long-term follow-up on patients’ microbiomes.

Because FDA considers feces to be a drug in the context of transplants, OpenBiome is providing stool only for treatment of C. difficile. People hoping to shift their microbiomes for other purposes are still out of luck. Until more testing and approval comes through, that leaves open the risk that some people may resort to home transplants.

Let me be very clear about this: Whipping up an enema of your friend’s stool is a terrible idea.There are excellent reasons why people normally avoid poop: It can carry pathogens and parasites that cause serious disease. Even a donor who appears perfectly healthy might be carrying around bacteria or viruses that his or her immune system or particular microbiome mix is able to deal with. Your mileage may vary.

Your genetics, your immune system, your diet and environment — all these things create the ecology of your insides, making it hard to predict what your outcome might be. What’s more, you may need to make other medically supervised changes along with the transplant. Research on microbiome links to obesity, for instance, suggests that a new “skinny” microbiome has to be accompanied by a switch to a diet lower in fat and calories, or else the new microbes will just be outcompeted.

These dangers and complicating factors are why a supply of prescreened stool is so important. The procedures need to be done under medical supervision, and when done right the results look really promising. The recently tested pill approach avoids some of the yuck factor of fecal transplants, but most transplants are done via an enema, colonoscopy or nose tube to the gut.

If you get transplant material from OpenBiome, you’ll have to submit to one of the usual transplant methods rather than a pill, but you can rest assured you’re getting high-quality stuff. Not only are the samples screened, the donors are among the best and brightest: a few young researchers and scientists from Harvard and MIT.

https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/gory-details/introducing-first-bank-feces?mc_cid=325756381e&mc_eid=9da0429978

Thanks to Jody Troupe for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.