Insights from a self-confessed science nerd with Lauren Donley
Welcome to your regular column on the science of human beings… and being human. Brought to you by Lauren, an unashamed science nerd who never misses an opportunity to share a story about bodily functions.
Last month I shared a story about blood donation but, like me, you may be surprised to learn that LifeBlood has recently branched out into the collection and supply of other biological products – namely, breast milk and faecal microbiota, also known as FMT, or just plain old poo!
Since opening its first milk facility in 2018, the service has collected over 10,000 litres of breast milk, providing vital nutrition for more than 4,500 premature babies. At present, the service is only available in Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide, for babies born at less than 32 weeks’ gestation.
However, research is underway to explore the benefits of donated breast milk in babies born after 32 weeks, with a view to expanding the program to more babies, and potentially to other cities too. So, watch this space Melbourne!
During Covid in 2021, LifeBlood has also began supplying donor faecal transplant products to hospitals across Australia for the treatment of Clostridioides difficile bacterial infections, or C. difficile for short.
C. difficile infection occurs in the large intestine and tends to be more common in older adults, particularly those who are taking antibiotics over a long period of time. This is because antibiotic use disturbs the balance of ‘normal’ bacteria in the gut, which allows C. difficile to multiply and attack the lining of the intestine.
A recurrent C. difficile infection can cause severe pain and cramping, often to the point where it becomes difficult to work or participate in physical activity. A severe or sudden infection can be life-threatening or even fatal.
But the good news is that faecal transplant can successfully treat recurrent C. difficile infection in over 90% of people. Or put another way, it’s estimated that faecal transplants could benefit around 2,700 people across Australia each year.
Currently, donations can only be made at a specialised donor centre in Perth and according to LifeBlood, ‘the donation toilet is a private, well-ventilated, soundproof, cosy room that is thoroughly cleaned to pristine condition after every visit’.
Hopefully one day Westies will get a chance to donate at a centre in the west, but not as far as Western Australia.
For more information go to: www.lifeblood.com.au