Excrement could be the key to saving humanity from extinction, according to scientists.
Scientists in Switzerland are seeking poo from all over the world — waiting anxiously for stools from Puerto Rico and Ethiopia to arrive by snail mail to then be stored in a freezer at the University of Zurich.
A team led by microbiologist Adrian Egli, the director of the Institute of Medical Microbiology, is collecting the stools in hopes of creating a vault to safeguard a wide range of bacteria from human guts, which contain trillions of microbes. Some of them could potentially help the human race in the future if certain microbes in the gut disappear and need to be restored.
Egli hopes the samples could be re-cultured one day if humans need them, warning that as modern diets and lifestyles alter the gut’s microbes, the diversity is shrinking; as such, he said, a vast range of samples from all over the world are needed.
So far, around 3,000 samples have been collected so far — the goal is 100,000 — and have been stored at -112°F (-80°C).
“People are very aware of biodiversity, the reductions in plants and animals,” Egli told The UK Times.
“If the elephant goes extinct, in terms of your own health you’re not having a problem,” he continued. “If your microbiome is disturbed in a certain way, it can have tremendous consequences.”
Microbes are essential to humans because they help absorb the nutrients from food and help protect from infection. Researchers also see a link between microbes and depression, immune response, life expectancy and even memory loss.
The Microbiota Vault– inspired by the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, which stores important seeds for plants — was founded as a non-profit organization in 2019.