The Fight Against Microorganisms: Dianne Fair (Transcript)

My son’s first project is due in January. Oh, please help me. When we went to Hawaii in February, we really did go to a science fair. So look, even school children in Hawaii do science fair projects. How bad would that be? Some of them were really, really good. You’ll like this one.

There’s an anthropologist, an American anthropologist called Jeff Leach. And after his daughter was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes, he moved to Tanzania, and he went native, living with a hunter-gatherer tribe. He ate what they ate — lots and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables; lots and lots of roots that they had gathered. Not a whole lot of protein, unless that had hunted and killed on that particular day.

You also eat a lot of dirt when you consume fruit and vegetable material. But what he found in the year when he was taking stool samples and blood samples, was that in humans, with a higher rate of intestinal worm infections, they have a lower rate of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, like diabetes, like Crohn’s Disease, like celiac, like irritable bowel, like rheumatoid arthritis.

Now, I’m not saying go out and eat dirt and eat worms, unless that’s what you’re into. But what if some aspect of the parasitic worms, like tapeworms and hook worms, was actually beneficial to our health? Because the immune system is so busy modulating and controlling the worm infection, that it doesn’t have time to pay attention to the inflammation elsewhere in our bodies.

His project is called The Human Food Project. He’s got another one that you might be interested in, so Google it on break. It’s called The American Gut Project. And for a small fee, from anywhere from $99 to $10,000, you can send in a fecal sample for testing. And he’ll even do fecal samples from your dog, to study the American human gut, and dog gut as well. Tempting. I saved the best for last.

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FMT: Fecal Mass Transplantation. This is used in 2013, the United States approved this for treatment of C. diff. It actually works. When you take healthy donor fecal material, and you transplant it into a recipient, they have a better than 90% chance of recovery from their C. diff infection. It sounds really gross. Because here’s what you do.

You can make a frozen poo pill, as long as the material has been screened and freed of parasites; you can receive it by an endoscope; you can receive it by an enema.

[How about a big bowl of “Poop Soup”?]

This technology has been around since the 4th or 5th century in China. There are recipes online for yellow soup. Last night, I went online and did some research. There are Pinterest pins, for do-it-yourself at home. There are recipes. I haven’t tried it yet. It’s on my list for 2017. No, I haven’t tried it.

But what if, what if, your loved one has exhausted all the options? Antibiotics are not working, they’ve had multiple surgeries. They’re depressed, they’re in the hospital, they’re losing hope. What if something this simple could actually help them? I’d do it. I’d do it in a heartbeat. I hope that with this very short talk I have stimulated your imagination to at least learn more, read more, find out more.

Antibiotic therapy won’t always be with us. But there are other avenues to explore. Yeah, I’ve read all those books. That’s not my nightstand, I promise. But people look at you funny when you’re waiting at an airport to get on a plane for a flight somewhere, and you have one of these books in your hand.

But then you mention that you heard about it on NPR Science Friday, and then it’s all good. It’s all good, they’re happy with you. Anyway, thank you for your kind attention.

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