Poop will save the world. It’s not just for stinking up the bathroom or the punchline of hilarious jokes anymore. No, poop is having its moment in the sun these days with the medical community finding new and creative ways to use it to our collective advantage. The latest findings suggest that fecal matter can even aid in the fighting or even curing of cancer. It all has to do with a new form of poop transplant which cancer patients are responding very well to in early trials. See what I mean? Poop is coming in real handy.
The latest findings by groups from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center as part of their Hillman Hillman Cancer Center group along with the National Cancer Institute were published in Science this past week. What they found was that not all cancer patients were responding in the same way to immunotherapy drugs. And in fact, some of these drugs were basically useless for a large cohort of patients. But then they isolated the group the drugs were working for and took stool samples from that group. What they found was that the latter group’s poop, or in this case microorganisms living in the gut biome, could be reintroduced to the former group. This was effectively a poop transplant and it’s working.
It turns out that gut health, which is becoming increasingly prominent in the study of the human body, could be one of the keys to unlocking show-stopping cures, including that of cancer. When a cancer patient responding well to immunotherapy had their gut microbes put into another cancer patient, the immunotherapy drugs suddenly showed a greater effectiveness. This is fascinating and a window into how our bodies are able to produce the correct cancer-fighting microbes.
The research into these “poop transplants” is still new and far from a proven science. But the study said, of the patients tested, those who received them responded in an overwhelmingly positive way. It was focused specifically on those with melanoma and showed that proper gut maintenance was effective in shrinking tumors and slowing the spread of the cancer. Six of the 15 people who received the transplant were more receptive to immunotherapy going forward, marking a massive uptick in success rate the scientists had seen before with other treatments.
And the good news around poop isn’t just confined to the study of cancer cures. Recently, in China, scientists and health officials had begun using rectal swabs to test for Covid-19. Apparently, these kinds of tests as compared to the nasal swabs were significantly more accurate in finding if patients had contracted the virus. More uncomfortable? Sure. More accurate? Most definitely.
So will poop save the world? That remains to be seen. But clearly what’s happening in our guts has massive upside in maintaining health, pointing out problems at an early stage, and maybe just even helping others. Poop is now more than a punchline people. It could be the key to unlocking so much more about human health than we ever thought before.