News World A plea for help from the bowels of science

A plea for help from the bowels of science

Valuable research material is flushed away every day, Belgian scientists complain. Shutterstock
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Belgian scientists are looking for people to donate their faeces to help with research into illnesses ranging from bowel disorders and allergies to neurological diseases.

At Ghent University hospital, researchers are performing faecal microbiota transplants on patients. They extract good microbiota – tiny organisms living in the colon – from donors to transfer it to sick patients in hope of repopulating their guts.

“How do we find donors? That’s not so easy. People do not always want to donate their faeces,” biomedical researcher Hannelore Hamerlinck said.

“It is also hard to talk about but we started this campaign in the press here in Flanders.”

Beyond bowel disorders, faeces might prove to be an asset in finding remedies for many other diseases, scientists say.

During the past decade, a growing number of studies have suggested an association between disruptions in gut microbiota and illness, including allergies and cancer.

“Microbes are at the centre of the system. The bacteria in the gut produce hormones that will affect the brain. They also help us to clear out the bad ones and digest certain things,” Hamerlinck said.

Donors must be in good health to participate in the research.

They first have to fill out an extensive questionnaire and must be tested over a three-month period before becoming eligible to donate.

Often people came forward as donors when a loved one had struggled with bowel disease, Hamerlinck said.