The miracle of poop

It’s a question that has perplexed scientists: does diarrhea have a purpose?

That is, is diarrhea is a symptom of disease, or does diarrhea actually help clear the bacteria causing an infection.

Cecile Borkhataria of the Daily Mail reports that scientists have found in sick mice, proteins caused microscopic leaks in the intestinal wall that let water in, making the mouse poop looser and limiting disease severity. 

The study, conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), looked at the immune mechanisms that drive diarrhea.

Diarrhea can have many different causes, including infections, certain types of medications, too much caffeine or alcohol and many more. 

It happens when there’s an excess of water in the intestines, which is normally re-absorbed by the body. 

The intestinal wall is lined with cells, and some water can pass through the cells, holes in the lining or via junctions between the cells.  

‘The hypothesis that diarrhea clears intestinal pathogens has been debated for centuries,’ said corresponding author of the study Dr Jerrold Turner of the BWH Departments of Pathology and Medicine. 

‘Its impact on the progression of intestinal infections remains poorly understood. 

‘We sought to define the role of diarrhea and to see if preventing it might actually delay pathogen clearance and prolong disease.’

To conduct the study, the researchers used a mouse infected with a bacteria called Citrobacter rodentium – the mouse equivalent of an E. coli infection. 

Within two days of the mouse being infected, the researchers saw an increase in the permeability of the mouse’s intestinal barrier – leading to water entering the intestines, causing diarrhea.

This occurred well before inflammation cellular damage of the intestines. 

The researchers discovered two new proteins involved in causing diarrhea – interleukin-22 and claudin-2, which humans possess too. 

They found that when the mouse was infected, immune cells travelled to the intestinal wall and produced interleukin-22. 

Interleukin-22 binds to cells on the intestinal wall, causing the release of another protein called claudin-2. 

It’s claudin-2 that causes the leak in cellular junction in the intestinal wall, allowing water to enter it and cause diarrhea. 

The researchers tested three different kinds of mice – regular mice, genetically modified mice that produce large amount of claudin-2, and mice that didn’t make any claudin-2. 

The regular mice had diarrhea when they got sick, and the mice that made more claudin-2 always had diarrhea. 

The mice that didn’t make any claudin-2 had more e injuries to their intestinal lining, and they still had diarrhea because it seemed as though their immune system attacked the cells help make some diarrhea. 

In related poop news, Rob Knight, one of the founding fathers of gut microbiome research, in 2012, used the crowdfunding platform FundRazr to coax more than 9,000 volunteers into first donating money, and then sending samples of their poop through the mail. A team of researchers probed these samples for bacterial DNA to create the first census of the 40 trillion or so bacteria that call our guts their home.

Kyle Frischkorn of the Smithsonian quotes Knight, who directs of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at the University of California at San Diego, as saying, “You get an ongoing input of microbes from your environment—microbes you eat on food itself.”

One of the mysteries sparked by the American Gut Project was why two people who claimed to follow the same diet could have such different communities of gut microbes. For the study, volunteers had self-reported their diets, with the vast majority following omnivorous diets, and less than 3 percent each identifying as “vegetarian” or “vegan.” When researchers crunched the numbers, however, they found no discernible correlations between gut communities and those with seemingly similar diets. 

“Diet categories were completely useless and didn’t correlate with the microbiome communities at all,” says Knight.

In other words, the bacteria in poop were telling a different dietary story than the people making that poop. “You can be a vegan who mostly eats kale, or you can be a vegan who mostly eats fries,” Knight explains. “Those have totally different consequences for your microbiome.” Anyone can claim to be a die-hard adherent to the Paleo Diet, it seems, but the data suggested that the microbiome remembers all those midnight ice cream transgressions.

Knight realized that the results of the American Gut Project were missing something crucial: A deeper dive into the food we eat. Filling that gap would mean analyzing all the food going in, and seeing how it correlated with the patterns in what comes out. But while collecting poop was, in some sense, straightforward—each person “submits a sample” in the same way—tallying up all the many foods people eat would be a lot more ambitious.

Every time you ingest, you change the interior landscape of you. Because the bulk of bacteria in the microbiome live in the gut, when we feed ourselves, we feed them too. The chemistry of what we eat, be it fries or kale, alters the chemical landscape of the gut, making it more cozy for some and less hospitable for others. 

It gets livelier. Because microbes are everywhere—on the table, in the air, on the surface of the muffin you left out on the counter—you’re also adding new microbes to the mix. Some stroll through your body like polite tourists. Others stick around and interact with the locals. Every bite has the potential to alter the microbiome, and subsequently human health. But researchers have yet to figure out how.

That’s because, until now, we didn’t have the platform to embark on the massive endeavor of collecting and analyzing food samples from around the world. Thanks to the American Gut Project, Knight and his team aren’t starting from scratch. Initially, the researchers plan to collect 1,000 samples from every brick of the familiar food pyramid, and then they’ll open it for the public to submit whatever foods they’re curious about. 

“We know about calorie count, and about different food groups, but the whole world of the molecules and the microbes in our food is a black box,” says Julia Gauglitz, a post-doctoral researcher at the Center for Microbiome Innovation who will direct a new project. As the old adage goes, “we are what we eat,” she says. And yet, when you get down to the microscopic level, “we know very little about what we’re consuming.”

Everything we eat is the cumulative product of the chemistry and microbes in the soil where it was grown, the factory where it was processed, and whatever you touched right before you ate it. Why is that important? Ultimately, the team hopes, demystifying the microbial patterns in our food will help us better engineer our diets to improve our health and ward off disease.

Knight draws a historical parallel to the discovery of essential nutrients. In the last century, researchers figured out that industrially processed foods had become nutrient-depleted. By artificially adding vitamins and minerals back in, deficiency diseases like rickets and beriberi were largely eliminated from the Western world. Similarly, understanding the health effects of the microbiome could allow us to engineer those missing microbes back into our meals.

“It’s fairly likely that our modern lifestyles are stripping out a whole lot of live microbes that we need to maintain health,” says Knight. “Getting an understanding of that could be as important as the understanding that vitamin C is necessary and making sure that everyone got enough of it.”

Blame bandicoot poop: 2 kids sick from Salmonella-in-sand in Sydney’s northern beaches

Bandicoots have a bifurcated penis.

And are Salmonella factories.

In 2014, at least 19 people were sickened after coming into contact with bandicoot poop while playing in the sand in Sydney’s northern beaches.

It’s happened again.

Julie Cross of The Daily Telegraph reports a playground on the northern beaches has been closed after two children became sick with salmonella after playing in the sandpit.

The children caught the infection, believed to be spread through contact with bandicoot droppings, after playing at Warriewood Valley Rocket Park in Casuarina Drive.

Now Northern Beaches Council says it is considering replacing the sand with rubber to prevent the problem recurring.

The former Pittwater Council spent $285,000 replacing playground sand contaminated by the nasty bug with a soft rubber surface.

As well as spreading salmonella java, the protected bandicoot is a known tick host, which can cause mammalian meat and tick allergies and other diseases.

Northern Sydney Local Health District public health director Michael Staff said as the peninsula was a stronghold of the bandicoot, most cases of the salmonella java bug was linked to the area.

There have been 12 reported cases linked to the peninsula this year.

“We hope that the closure of the park will prevent further cases,” Dr Staff said.

The health district said a sand sample taken from the playground was tested after two confirmed salmonella java cases were reported to the public health unit, one in April and another in May.

Northern Sydney Local Health District director of public health Dr Michael Staff said parents of young children should try and stop them putting their hands in their mouths when they’re playing outside and get them to wash their hands after they have been outside.

Uh-huh.

Roger Ramjet, rainbow unicorns, and a Missouri girl’s poop-themed third birthday party

In grade 10, I would race home on my bicycle at lunch to take in 30 minutes of animated joy that was a predecessor to all the satire 40 years later of pompous American superheros, and I was convinced the writers were all stoned.

Roger Ramjet.

Greatest TV cartoon ever (read the start of the wiki entry to get of how deepl weird the show was and how we are living it today).

Today’s weirdest non-political animation is the pooping unicorn, which has reached its demographic epoch in the same way that 7-year-olds hang posters of Michael Jackson or Katy Perry, when a friend of daughter Sorenne asked, “Do you know what the colorful unicorn is?

Yes, yes I do, we covered it over a year ago and it has to do with a colorful unicorn and some stoned student pitching a device for the proper popping posture.

But is the unicorn effect spreading like diarrhea?

As Caroline Bologna of Huffington Post writes, when a Missouri mom named Rebecca asked her daughter, Audrey, how she’d like to celebrate her third birthday, the toddler had only one theme in mind: “poop.”

“For months, every time we mentioned her party, Audrey requested ‘poop balloons and a poop cake,’” Rebecca told The Huffington Post. “I tried suggesting other themes, but she always insisted on poop.”

Ultimately, she and her husband decided to “embrace the weird” and give Audrey the party she wanted.

The unconventional party took place in October at the family’s home in St. Louis.

The guests played “pin the poop,” enjoyed a poop emoji-shaped piñata filled with Tootsie Rolls and Hershey’s Kisses, and received whoopee cushion favors. Rebecca even dressed in a poop costume.

The mom said everyone loved the party and thought it was hilarious. “I expected the grandparents to question it, but they all just laughed when I told them,” she added.

Rebecca believes the birthday party embodied her daughter in many ways. “Audrey is definitely her own person,” she explained. “I hope she always has the confidence she has now. She is so funny and the best big sister.”

Rebecca hopes Audrey’s party can inspire other parents in the throes of birthday planning.

Blame ‘bad souvlaki’ GPA data to catch Sydney taxi drivers using laneway as a toilet

Who says the space program hasn’t led to great inventions: Tang, Teflon, and GPS to track down taxi drivers in a public poo pandemic that’s leaving a group of business owners flushed with anger.

Shop owners on Hercules St, Ashfield in Sydney’s inner-west say discovering human feces in the laneway behind their businesses has become “a daily occurrence” along with the nauseating task of cleaning-up the offerings.

The situation has become so bad real estate agent Tim Simpson is considering relocating the business he’s run in the suburb for 40 years.

He said the final straw was catching a taxi driver “in the act” last weekend.

“I understand drivers are expected to work 24/7 but surely there’s better options than this,” he said.

“We’re the ones who are having to clean it up. It’s like living in the Third World.”

National taxi firm 13 CABS is investigating the claims by matching complaints against data from GPS devices fitted in taxis.

Head of client services Simon Purssey said he was “shocked and horrified” to hear the reports.

“I understand ‘when a man’s gotta go, a man’s gotta go’ but if you’ve eaten a bad souvlaki and all of a sudden have to pull over you don’t do it in someone’s property,” he said.

And I thought Australia had great access to public shit depositories, compared to the rest of the world.

 

it’s the poop

I was wearing one of our 2006 don’t eat poop T-shirts today as I walked Sorenne to school with Ted the wonderdog.

Most families noticed Ted, but one parent said, “sage advice.”

Clearly someone I could chat with.

He knew all the Australian outbreaks, and said he was in California when spinach happened in 2006, so was a good chat.

But maybe we talk about poop too much. From our artistic (and spelling-challenged) daughter:

Scientist, artist, hockey player, swimmer: Happy Birthday Sorenne

Sorenne turned 8-years-old today, and this unique child is growing more comfortable and confident.

sorenne-powellFrom this, to third place in the science fair this year, to a party last Saturday (because mom just left for a French stuff conference in Adelaide), after which she crashed with her new BFF, Ted.

The Brisbane sky has been heralding the date of her birth, with some awesome light shows in the days before (and more to come).

sorenne-science-fair-aug-15What’s it like growing up with a father who writes and talks about food safety? Like dad, she’s got three citizenships – Canadian, American and Australian – draws unique pictures of pigs pooping, and says things at school that others may find inappropriate, but that I find totally cool.

sorenne-ted-dec-16(The clip below if from recycling day at her school, and she says, “Reuse chicken poop and turn it into fertilizer.” I had no input, she just picked it up from the ether around this house).

Shiga-toxin producing E. coli: Another reason to avoid pigeon poop

Verotoxigenic Escherichia coli infections in humans cause disease ranging from uncomplicated intestinal illnesses to bloody diarrhea and systemic sequelae, such as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Previous research indicated that pigeons may be a reservoir for a population of verotoxigenic E. coli producing the VT2f variant.

pigeon-poop-shamelessWe used whole-genome sequencing to characterize a set of VT2f-producing E. coli strains from human patients with diarrhea or HUS and from healthy pigeons. We describe a phage conveying the vtx2f genes and provide evidence that the strains causing milder diarrheal disease may be transmitted to humans from pigeons.

The strains causing HUS could derive from VT2f phage acquisition by E. coli strains with a virulence genes asset resembling that of typical HUS-associated verotoxigenic E. coli.

Whole-genome characterization and strain comparison of VT2f-producing Escherichia coli causing hemolytic uremic syndrome

Emerging Infectious Diseases, December 2016, Volume 22, Number 12, https://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2212.160017

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/22/12/16-0017_article

Brisbane-area vehicles covered in human poop

Clare Armstrong of The Courier Mail reports that two vehicles ended up covered in human waste after a truck carrying 27 tonnes of sewage was forced to brake suddenly to avoid a collision at Toowoomba.

poop-spill-brisbaneIt is understood the truck transporting the sewage lost its load when the driver braked suddenly to avoid crashing into a car outside The Big Orange fruit barn on Crowley Vale Road on Wednesday just after 8am.

The Arkwood Organic Recycling (is there any other kind of recycling shit other than organic?) truck trailer had a tarpaulin-like cover over the top but the force of the braking action caused it to rip apart and the waste spilt out.

Shocked locals took to social media to express their disgust at the scene as the truck, car and surrounding area were covered in human waste.

oddball-kellys-heros“Where’s the gag reflex,” posted one person.

“You can still get through it,” advised another person online.

Arkwood Organic Recycling Owner and Operations Manager Brendon Clarke told local media the load was secured but the abrupt stop caused the trailer’s cover on the truck to tear.

Take a dump on Trump: Poo Haiku for World Toilet Day

 

 

Take a dump on Trump

I won’t change my toilet’s name

Your poo orange too.

trumptoiletSaturday is World Toilet Day, a serious effort by the United Nations focusing on the fact that one-third of the world’s population — or 2.4 billion people —  have no toilet at home. A third of those people are children. They are vulnerable to disease, malnutrition and other major problems because there is no clean way of going to the bathroom where they live.

Marylou Tousignant of The Washington Post writes the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other organizations want everyone in the world to have proper toilets and safe drinking water by 2030.

People living in present-day Scotland and Pakistan built the first indoor toilets about 4,500 years ago. Pipes carried the waste outdoors. Knossos palace, built 3,700 years ago on the island of Crete in the Mediterranean, had some of the first flush toilets. They used rainwater and water from nearby springs. A wooden seat kept users dry.

Medieval castles had toilets built high on an outside wall. There was a stone seat at the top, and gravity took care of the rest. Often the waste dropped into the castle moat. People living in towns, meanwhile, collected their waste in what were called chamber pots, and they emptied them by heaving the contents out a window. Public lavatories, which were not common at the time, were often just several toilet holes in a row built over a river.

In 1596, England’s Sir John Harington designed a flush toilet with a handle and a raised water tank. He said using it would leave rooms smelling sweet. He gave one to his godmother, Queen Elizabeth I, who didn’t like it. Instead, she used a pot in a box covered in velvet and trimmed with lace. The idea of an indoor flush toilet didn’t catch on until 200 years later.

The word “toilet” comes from the French “toile,” meaning “cloth.” It referred to the covering on a lady’s dressing table and, over time, to the dressing room itself and the primping that went on there. (Wealthy people in the 17th and 18th centuries often had rooms at home just for getting dressed.) In the 19th century, “toilet” got its modern meanings: the place where bathing and other private acts occur and the bowl into which human waste is deposited.

Over time, chamber pots and toilet bowls got fancier and fancier. One such pot, sold during the American Revolution, had an image of Britain’s King George III at the bottom of the bowl.

Thomas Jefferson, who used flush toilets while he was the U.S. ambassador to France in the 1780s, had three small rooms for toilets built at Monticello, his home in Virginia. But there is no proof that they were true flush toilets. And because most American homes did not have running water until a century later, the widespread use of flush toilets came later as well.

Chinese businessman Zhong Jiye will not give up the brand name on his Trump Toilet products, NBC News reports.

“We registered our company in 2002 and obtained approval from the trademark office in Beijing,” said Zhong, referring to Shenzhen Trump Industrial Company Limited, which mostly manufactures high-tech toilet seats. 

hanksy-dumptrump“If (U.S. President-elect Donald) Trump thinks our trademark violates his rights and interests, he can use legal methods because our company observes China’s laws,” CEO Zhong told NBC News, adding that he is prepared to defend his company’s legal rights to the Trump brand name.

In Chinese, the company name means “innovate universally.” 

Vicky Hallett of NPR reports that poetry may be one way of getting people to discuss diarrhea.

That’s the idea behind Poo Haiku, a competition created by Defeat DD, a campaign dedicated to the eradication of diarrheal disease.

Although everybody’s had the runs, it’s not something most folks talk about, says Hope Randall, digital communications officer for PATH’s Center for Vaccine Innovation and Access, which created DefeatDD to bring together resources on vaccines, nutrition, oral rehydration therapy, sanitation and more.

Kat Kelley of the Global Health Technologies Coalition, which references a recent study published in The Lancet:

Just six pathogens

But eighty percent of kids’

Diarrheal deaths.

Randall herself penned an entry:

A vicious cycle,

Gut damage, malnutrition

We can halt the churn.

And from Doug Powell:

Take a dump on Trump

I won’t change my toilet’s name

Is your poo orange too.

(Depends whether the word orange is one syllable or two.)

Don’t eat poop: Texas cop edition

A policeman in Texas has been sacked for allegedly giving a sandwich filled with feces to a homeless man.

matthew-luckhurst-san-antino-pd_650x400_81478532857Matthew Luckhurst, a San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) officer who had been on the force for five years, reportedly placed fecal matter between two pieces of bread and gave it to a homeless person.

“This was a vile and disgusting act that violates our guiding principles of ‘treating all with integrity’, compassion, fairness and respect,” SAPD Chief William McManus said in a statement.

“The fact that his fellow officers were so disgusted with his actions that they reported him to Internal Affairs demonstrates that this type of behavior will never be tolerated. The action of this one former officer in no way reflects the actions of all the other good men and women who respectfully serve this community,” he was quoted as saying by San Antonio Express-News.

The alleged incident occurred in May, when Officer Luckhurst bragged to a fellow officer that “he had picked up some feces, placed it in a slice of bread, and put it in a Styrofoam container next to the unknown homeless male”, a statement from the police chief’s office said.

“The officer reported that he told Luckhurst to go back and throw it away. The officer said he saw Luckhurst go back and he assumed that Luckhurst discarded the container,” it said.

The incident was reported to Internal Affairs in July. Police Department officials have been unable to locate the homeless man.

“Firing this officer was the right thing to do,” Mayor Ivy Taylor was quoted as saying.

Ben Sifuentes, Luckhurst’s attorney, said his client joked about giving an excrement sandwich to a homeless person but never actually did so.