Pooping in the name of science | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 23.08.2018
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Science

Pooping in the name of science

US researchers have discovered probiotic intestinal bacteria in baby feces that could have healing powers. The bacterial strains could help people suffering from diabetes or autoimmune diseases.

A team of researchers in North Carolina has come up with a rather unusual appetizer. Scientists at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem have mixed a probiotic cocktail of bacteria found in baby feces. Their results were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Probiotic foods are considered to be a kind of superfood. Yoghurt, sauerkraut or certain cheeses, for example, are probiotic and therefore contain many lactic acid bacteria. These are good for the intestinal flora and should contribute to general health.

Read more: DW's Health News: Even minor stress is a health risk

The intestinal bacteria strains used by the researchers could help the human body to produce so-called short-chain fatty acids.

Hariom Yadav, head of the study, explained: "Short-chain fatty acids are a key component of good gut health."

Obese people or patients with diabetes, autoimmune diseases and cancer in particular often have fewer short-chain fatty acids.

Why baby feces?

For the study, the scientists examined the feces of babies, because the little ones are usually still very healthy. Also, baby feces are pretty easy to come by. 34 healthy babies made their diapers available for scientific purposes.

The researchers administered the bacterial cocktail to mice and also tested its effect on the feces of adult humans, albeit in the laboratory. They found that the man-made, or baby-made, probiotics have actually stimulated the production of short-chain fatty acids.

"The data could be used for future studies on the influence of probiotics on the human microbiome, metabolism and related diseases," Yadav said.

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