A French hospital has had to abandon a scientific study because so many people tried to donate their faeces in the hope of being paid €50 (£44).
St Antoine Hospital in Paris had placed posters up calling for potential stool donors for a study on ulcerative colitis.
But after someone shared a photo of the poster on Facebook, the hospital became inundated with people keen to try and make easy money.
Staff claim the hospital had thousands of calls and emails of people offering the contents of their toilets.
St Antoine Hospital in Paris was planning to conduct a study on how pioneering faecal transplants could be used to treat people with ulcerative colitis
They soon became overwhelmed and had to shut off the phone line, but people continued ringing the hospital switchboard and some even turned up at the research centre in person.
‘What happened is a disaster,’ said Professor Harry Sokol, a gastroenterologist who was organising the study.
‘We had to cancel the call for donors and halt the study because it had gotten out of control.
‘Even after we cut off the number people were calling the hospital switchboard, some even showed up in person, and it’s still going on.’
A photo of the call for volunteers was posted online last week and quickly racked up more than 5,000 shares and 10,000 comments on Facebook.
And many people were lured in by the last line of the advert, which read: ‘You will receive compensation of 50 euros per donation.’
The poster appealing for volunteers for the study was originally only put up on walls around the St Antoine Hospital and local medical schools. People were drawn in by the last line, which reads: ‘You will receive compensation of 50 euros per donation’
The public, not realising the donors would have to go through rigorous screening, interviewing and tests, were immediately keen to offer their services.
Calling for healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 49, the study will eventually test how effective faecal transplants are for people with ulcerative colitis. It is unsure when the study will re-commence.
Faecal transplants involve transplanting the bacteria from one person’s stool into someone else for medical benefit.
‘Someone took a picture and it spread rapidly on the internet and social media, because the message had been altered,’ Professor Sokol said.
‘People thought it meant: Give us your stools, we’ll give you 50 euros.’
He explained the researchers have had to postpone their work because of the huge demand.
The scientists were disappointed the ‘very serious’ study had become a joke when there were a ‘long list’ of patients waiting for the experimental transplants who were ‘devastated’ when the tests couldn’t go ahead.
Ulcerative colitis is a long-term condition which causes the bowel and rectum to become swollen and uclers can develop, potentially causing bleeding.
People may go for a long time without symptoms then suffer flare-ups, which can cause diarrhoea, stomach pain, fatigue and weight loss.
The condition is believed to be autoimmune, meaning the body’s own immune cells attack the intestines – it affects around one in 420 people (146,000 in the UK).
Doctors around the world are studying faecal transplants in the hope they could be used to treat a range of chronic gut diseases, such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
Also known as bacteriotherapy, they work by introducing stool bacteria from a healthy person into an unwell patient in the hope of getting a healthier balance of gut bacteria.
WHAT IS A FAECAL MICROBIOTA TRANSPLANT? THE BIZARRE PROCEDURE THAT REBALANCES BACTERIA IN THE STOMACH
Faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is the transfer of stool from a healthy donor into the gastrointestinal tract of a patient.
WHAT CAN IT TREAT?
It is most commonly used to treat recurring C. difficile infection – spread by bacterial spores found within faeces. It is 90 per cent effective.
It can also be used to treat gastrointestinal infections such as colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and constipation – but success rates are much lower.
Recent studies have delved into the benefits of treating conditions linked to a poor balance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut, such as autism.
Faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is the transfer of stool from a healthy donor into the gastrointestinal tract of a patient
FMT can replenish bacterial balance as it acts like a probiotic, with samples of faeces often containing up to 1,000 different species of bacteria.
HOW IS IT PERFORMED?
The transplant is done via tubes – Inserted into the nostril, down the throat and into the stomach – or directly into the colon.
However, the faecal sample can also be transplanted through enemas or pills containing freeze-dried material.
IS IT SAFE?
There have been reports of patients showing unexpected weight gain after treatment, bouts of vomiting and even abdominal pain.
However, the long-term safety and effectiveness of FMT is relatively unknown, and researchers have called for more studies to determine the risks.