Baby Poop Is a Gold Mine for Your Microbiome

If you can get over where it comes from, it's pretty useful. 

In the pantheon of probiotics — foods or pills that deliver “helpful” bacteria straight to your gut — there have always been clear winners. Earlier this year, yogurt and kombucha enjoyed their time at the top. This summer scientists tapped into a new, powerful probiotic source ready to claim the prize — that’s if you can get over how gross it is.

In August, Sarah Sloat reported on a Scientific Reports study indicating that baby feces — yes, poop — is a gold mine when it comes to probiotic bacteria. Study co-author and Wake Forest School of Medicine Assistant Professor Hariom Yadav, Ph.D., demonstrated this by going directly to the source: Bright Horizons, a diaper-laden daycare in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. After accumulating 34 dirty diapers, Yadav and his team were able to isolate 321 candidate bacteria strains from two families of bacteria: Lactobacillus and Enterococcus. From there, they selected five choice strains from each and set about creating what they call a “probiotic cocktail.”

This is #14 on Inverse‘s 25 Most Surprising Human Discoveries Made in 2018..

baby poop microbiome
The poop is just a starting point.

The “probiotic cocktail” hasn’t been tested on humans yet, but when Yadav and his colleagues gave mice six doses of it, they noticed that the probiotics had a profound effect on their microbiomes — the communities of bacteria that live inside all of us and affect various aspects of our health. When the mice took their probiotics, the bacteria living in their microbiomes produced more short-chain fatty acids. Upping production of these molecules, Yadav said, could help mitigate the effects of more than one disease:

“It’s known that [the short-chain fatty acids] produced by gut microbiome are significantly decreased in the gut of people with diabetes, obesity, cancer, autoimmune, inflammatory bowel diseases, as well as in the guts of older people,” he told Inverse. “Hence, probiotics we have isolated increase production of these.”

More common examples of fecal-related probiotic delivery are called fecal transplants. During this procedure, “a whole fecal slurry,” to use Yadav’s description, is basically injected into your gastrointestinal tract. This is not what Yadav intends to do with his “cocktail.” They were deriving the probiotic cocktail from the bacteria they had isolated from the poop — not from the poop itself, though it had provided them with a great catalog of microbiota to choose from.

Yadav and his colleagues are working on creating a probiotic that can be taken orally or put into other food. Yadav explained that they’re collaborating with “industrial partners to bring [the cocktail] to the market.”

If you can forget where they got the bacteria from, it sounds like a pretty cool idea.

As 2018 winds down, Inverse is highlighting 25 surprising things we learned about humans this year. These stories told us weird stuff about our bodies and brains, uncovered insights into our social lives, and illuminated why we’re such complicated, wonderful, and weird animals. This story was #14. Read the original story here.