Tag Archives | feces

China is Turning Fecal Sludge Into ‘Black Gold’

Who knew that human waste (a/k/a fecal sludge) was so valuable? From Bloomberg News:

Heinz-Peter Mang is obsessed with turning human waste into gold. As millions of Chinese move to cities, the German engineer is convinced the country is on the way to hitting the jackpot.

ShaTinSewageTreatmentWorks BirdEyeView 2.jpg

Sha Tin Sewage Treatment Works. Photo: Chong Fat (CC)


A growing portion of China’s toilet waste is converted into fertilizer and biogas. In Beijing, 6,800 tons of human excrement are treated each day by some estimates: enough to fill almost three Olympic-size swimming pools.

Over the past decade, China’s economic ascent has driven millions of rural workers into its cities in the largest migration in human history. In 2013, the number of urban dwellers crossed 731 million, overtaking the rural population by more than 100 million. Some fallouts: water shortages in the North and toilet waste routed into rivers in the south.

That’s forcing city planners to get creative in dealing with toilet refuse, and drawing engineers like Mang to help refine models.

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A History of Fecal Therapy

PIC: Cjc2nd (CC)

PIC: Cjc2nd (CC)

Alternative title: Eat Shit and LIVE.

The next big thing?  Someone should probably set up some kind of formal system for measuring doses of… Oh, they did? Huh. There’s video, apparently.

POO IS A DECIDEDLY IMPERFECT delivery vehicle for a medical therapy. It’s messy. It stinks. It’s inconsistent, not to mention a regulatory nightmare. But it can be incredibly potent. A classic study of nine healthy British volunteers found that bacteria accounted for more than half of the mass of their fecal solids. That astonishing concentration of microorganisms, both living and dead, makes sense when you consider that the microbial colonists inhabiting our gastrointestinal tract outnumber our own cells roughly three to one, on recent estimates.

In the ideal conditions of the human gut, a thriving ecosystem of 1,000 or more bacterial species that rivals the complexity of a rainforest has co-evolved with us. This microscopic jungle is constantly adapting in response to our diet, antibiotic use and other environmental influences.

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Fecal (Poo) Transplants on the Rise

Digestive system diagram enWe’ve covered what Mosaic calls “Medicine’s dirty secret” before, but the idea of using someone else’s feces to cure an ailment is apparently growing fast, including instructions for trying it at home:

This is how far a mother will go.

Your daughter has been sick for more than four years with a severe autoimmune disease that has left her colon raw with bloody ulcers. After multiple doctors and drugs have failed, you are frantic for her to get better. Then you send her disease into remission, virtually overnight, with a single act of love. “Who wouldn’t do that for their daughter?” you say. It’s like a miracle, you say. “An overnight magic wand.”

You’ve agreed to do it again – twice – for strangers. You’ve seen first-hand how effective it can be and you felt so badly for the patients and their families. Had you donated blood or plasma, no one would blink.

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When Antibiotics Fail, Fecal Transplants Work

The idea of somebody else’s feces being implanted in your body may not sound great, but on the other hand pumping chemicals into your body often proves to be fatal. Denise Grady reports for the New York Times that the “natural” cure for Clostridium difficile infections is far more effective than antibiotics:

The treatment may sound appalling, but it works.

Transplanting feces from a healthy person into the gut of one who is sick can quickly cure severe intestinal infections caused by a dangerous type of bacteria that antibiotics often cannot control.

A new study finds that such transplants cured 15 of 16 people who had recurring infections with Clostridium difficile bacteria, whereas antibiotics cured only 3 of 13 and 4 of 13 patients in two comparison groups. The treatment appears to work by restoring the gut’s normal balance of bacteria, which fight off C. difficile.

The study is the first to compare the transplants with standard antibiotic therapy.

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