World Poo Bank to open in Switzerland
With stunning mountains, lakes and rivers, Switzerland is always full of beautiful surprises. However, instead of green hills, grey mountains and crystal blue water, this story is just one shade: brown. Even though Swiss banks are famous in their own right, the country is now set to host the first-ever World Microbiota Bank, more colloquially known as the World Poo Bank.
Faecal samples can be used to develop medicine
According to Watson, Switzerland is on the verge of storing faecal matter from places as far-flung as Laos and Ethiopia, in what scientists call the World Microbiota Bank. Much like the underground seed store in Norway, the bank will be used to store and preserve the “intestinal flora” of as many regions and species as possible, including samples provided by humans.
Pascale Vonaesch, assistant professor at the Department of Fundamental Microbiology at the University of Lausanne, told RTS that one of the store's main functions is for the development of medicine, noting that if a cure needed a bacterium that was extinct in the wild, scientists could extract it from the stored faeces and “cultivate it in order to make a medicine."
Several types of faeces threatened with ex-stink-tion
She added that there is a huge diversity of what she officially called “microbiota”, with each being specific and different depending on the region and animal it was sourced from. Some organisms stored in the poo bank will consist of more than 100.000 billion bacteria cells - try not to think about that next time you visit the bathroom.
Unfortunately, Vonaesch noted that with the increased use of antibiotics, and with global diets becoming more uniform, many of the precious organisms found in faeces are dying out and that the bank needs to be set up before these potentially valuable microbes are lost forever. That is why, according to RTS, scientists from around the world have begun collecting and freezing poo and sending the samples to Switzerland.
World Poo Bank will likely be set up in the Swiss mountains
Currently, these samples are being sent to the University of Zurich, but eventually organisers hope to set up a World Poo Bank in the Swiss Alps, most likely in a disused bunker. Vonaesch said that they are now working on an archiving system for the poo, and in the future, the site in the mountains will house 40 scientists from around the world. How these scientists will describe what they do for a living remains to be seen.