SYSK Selects: Fecal Transplants: You Gonna Drink That Poop?

Fecal Transplants: You Gonna Drink That Poop? Thinkstock

In this week's SYSK Select episode, there's an emerging field in health care called medical ecology that's concerned with understanding how the 100 trillion microbes living inside us keep us healthy. The field's first breakthrough is the fecal transplant, taking poop from a healthy person and putting it into the gut of a sick person. It's a real thing and it actually works.

Male Speaker: Brought to you by the 2012 Toyota Camry.

Female Speaker: Welcome to Stuff You Should Know, from

Josh: Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark. There's Charles W. "Chuck" Bryant. And we are so fly by the seat of our pants, we just now decided which of the two episodes we're going to record first.

Chuck: I know. That's never happened. I looked at Josh while he was talking. I pointed to the thing, and he just nodded. That's - we're gonna do poop.

Josh: Yep, we're doing poop.

Chuck: Yes, I can't wait to hear your intro for this because I can't imagine what kind of intro you would have for drinking a poop shake.

Josh: Exactly zero intro.

Chuck: Okay.

Josh: Now that you've put me on the spot. I had only recently heard of this. [inaudible] pointed it out to me about six or so months ago. And then presto, bammo, change-o, we've got an article on the site finally.

Chuck: Yeah, it is a pretty new article, right?

Josh: Yeah, and it was at least October at the earliest.

Chuck: This has come up a couple of times in our show already.

Josh: Yeah, we did a little video that's now vanished, on fecal transplants.

Chuck: Oh, yeah, that's right. That's where it came up.

Josh: And then this - but yeah, this article is by a dude named Nicholas Gerbis, or Gerbis. I don't know who he is. He's a freelancer, but this guy is top notch.

Chuck: Yeah, he wrote some funny sentences.

Josh: He did, but it's like every sentence in this article is underlined and highlighted

Chuck: Yeah, it's a very good comprehensive article on poop shakes.

Josh: Good thick stuff. So Chuck.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Did you know that if you are infected with something called the norovirus, which is very frequently contracted in dorms, prisons, cruise ships, aren't they all virtually the same thing?

Chuck: Pretty much.

Josh: When you poop, each gram of stool has literally billions of noroviruses in it.

Chuck: Yeah, and I believe one of the ways you can contract this is by eating sushi from fish that have been swimming in contaminated waters, right?

Josh: Oh, is that the same one, the Norwalk virus and the norovirus are the same one?

Chuck: It's one in the same.

Josh: Oh, okay, yeah, that sounds familiar. That was in the first, pilot 1.0, right?

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: But yeah, okay, so the norovirus, you can get it from eating sushi. You can also get it if you happen to be friendly with a person who is just filthy and has the norovirus, and doesn't wash their hands after pooping, and then shakes your hand, or feeds you like a gummy bear or something.

Chuck: Gross.

Josh: With their poopy fingers. And you accept that gummy bear, and like maybe their fingers like get inside of your mouth just a little bit, then all of a sudden, you have the norovirus, and you are in big, big trouble. For the most part though, it was always regarded as like this kind of - just a terrible thing to have for a few days. It's extremely virulent, extremely easily passed. It could survive for days, weeks on a surface. But ultimately, you just pooped a lot, you vomited a lot, and then it was done. Not so any longer, thanks to the rise of mis-prescribed antibiotics.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: About 50 percent of antibiotic prescriptions are considered unnecessary.

Chuck: Yeah, I try to avoid it.

Josh: It's good, and it's nice that you're doing your part. I try to do my part, too, and it stinks that like we have to suffer, right.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Because other people are getting antibiotics at the drop of a hat, but that's the point, and one of the reasons why you and I choose to suffer, if people haven't caught on yet, is because if you expose a virus or bacteria to an antibiotic, something intended to kill it, and it doesn't kill it, that antibiotic - or that virus or bacteria, has just been effectively naturally selected, and it goes on to reproduce and reproduce, and eventually, it develops resistance to these antibiotics, and so the medicine we have becomes useless to it. That's happened with norovirus. It's also happened with another very nasty virus called clostridium difficile.

Chuck: Yeah, it is muy difficile.

Josh: Difficile is what, French and Spanish for hard and difficult?

Chuck: I think so.

Josh: And the reason they call it that is because this is a very intractable bacteria.

Chuck: Yeah, and this is - it's become a - they call it an emerging epidemic, which is kind of scary to say that, but especially in hospitals in nursing homes because it generally affects old folks, and they will - I guess they're so jacked up on antibiotics that they're gut can't kill this thing once it gets in there.

Josh: Well, yes, or if they're on antibiotics for something else, like they're in the hospital for something else and they're given antibiotics, the antibiotics go in and just wipe their guts clean of good bacteria and bad bacteria. See, normally, we have bacteria that fight C. difficile, but if it's all gone, then yeah, you're in big trouble. The clostridium comes in and finds root and gives you a lot of problems, and maybe kills you.

Chuck: Yeah, it is a big deal. Gastrointestinal infections as a whole, are way up these days. The death number doubled from 1999 to 2007, and I think more than 17,000 people a year in the US die from gastrointestinal infections.

Josh: Yeah, 83 percent of the gastrointestinal infection fatalities are in patients 65 and older. Sadly, the next biggest age group is five and under.

Chuck: Yeah, the old and the young.

Josh: And it's a really nasty way to die.

Chuck: Yeah, and two thirds of those are the C. difficile specifically, so it is -

Josh: Right, which is why they're calling it an epidemic. And the way you die from this is you vomit and diarrhea so much that you become dehydrated. When you become dehydrated, your electrolytes are out of balance. The electrical system that keeps your heart and rhythm malfunction, so maybe you have a heart attack or you have a stroke, or you go into shock and die.

Chuck: Yeah, and even if you're young, it's important to stay hydrated when you're sick like that, even if you have the stomach flu or something and you're vomiting up stuff, you've got to try to at least keep some water down.

Josh: And if you can't, then you should probably go to the hospital and have fluids introduced intravenously.

Chuck: Yeah, not a bad idea. Better safe than sorry, [inaudible] would say.

Josh: I always keep an IV in the trunk of my car, just in case I start to dehydrate. So I think we've made the case the C. difficile is a big problem, right.

Chuck: It is.

Josh: And the fact that it's - they call it intractable, like it's just really hard to get rid of. Even once you get rid of it, there's like a 20 percent relapse rate.

Chuck: Oh, really?

Josh: Yeah, and when you're on antibiotics, you have a seven to ten time greater chance of contracting it, and even two months you've finished a course of antibiotics, you're still three times as likely to contract it as normal. So you really want to stay away from the antibiotics if at all possible.

Chuck: Yeah, of course, if you need them, take them. We're not advising you to not take things to make you better, but -

Josh: If you have the sniffles, if you have like a nasal infection or something like that, a sinus infection, isn't that what they call them, you kind of need to tough it out for the greater good of humanity.

Chuck: All right. Let's talk about bacteria and what is called the micro-biome. That is an ecosystem in your body of little tiny bacteria, like 100 trillion bacteria in the human body doing all kinds of good stuff.

Josh: Yeah, and there's ten times the amount of foreign bacterial cells in your body than your cells, actual human cells, ten times more.

Chuck: And that's a good thing. We've talked about good bacteria and bad bacteria before, and probably the monsters inside us thing, right, what was that one?

Josh: Yeah, probably digestive system, too.

Chuck: Yeah, that too, but anyway, to recap quickly, we have lots and lots and lots of helpful bacteria, and there's a burgeoning field in medicine - some might call it a fringe - on the fringe right now, but it's called medical ecology, and it's kind of neat. It's basically like instead of going to war with your body, they're saying you should be more like a gardener, and manage your body like a garden of all these live things inside of you.

Josh: Flora - bacterial flora.

Chuck: Yeah, you don't want to kill these things.

Josh: No, especially not the good ones, and that's what we've been doing with antibiotics. We just send something in there that kills everything.

Chuck: That's right. There's a really cool thing. Have you heard of the human micro-biome project?

Josh: I have.

Chuck: This is based on examinations of 242 healthy folks, that they've tracked for two years, and they're basically sequencing genetic material of bacteria recovered from sites on the body, and they've recovered more than five million genes at this point, so they're really like mapping this stuff out for the next wave of medicine coming through - down.

Josh: Right, like that's got to be a pretty good first step towards tailoring medicine to avoid killing good stuff.

Chuck: Yeah, and this goes along with your hygiene hypothesis that we just talked about when we recorded yesterday.

Josh: And the five-second rule.

Chuck: Yeah, which is - that's probably out already, right/

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Okay.

Josh: But yeah, the hygiene hypothesis that if you're exposed to bacteria, you learn to - your body - your micro-biome begins to include bacteria that can defend against the bad stuff. And so if you're exposed to it early on, you have a greater advantage toward being healthy as an adult, having fewer allergies, that kind of stuff.

Chuck: Have you ever had a friend that had a kid that was a little kooky with the Purel?

Josh: I've seen it.

Chuck: Like before you touch my baby, here, squirt, squirt, squirt all over you.

Josh: Yeah. Usually when the baby's very young, although I also have friends that like won't touch babies because they think they're just dirty. It's hilarious. I was like are you - I don't hold babies usually because I'm afraid I'm gonna drop them. And I thought that that was the same -

Chuck: Well, you just carry them like a football. That's probably one of the problems.

Josh: Well, that's how you carry a baby.

Chuck: No, it's not a [inaudible].

Josh: How does the rhyme go? Face in the armpit, elbow over the body, hold it real tight and run like hell. I think that was it.

Chuck: I don't think so. I think you cradle and nuzzle.

Josh: Well, anyway, I thought my friend was afraid of dropping the baby, and he's like, no, I don't touch them because they're just like bags of germs.

Chuck: Well, all humans are filthy dirty, and babies just don't appear that way because they haven't been around long enough to stink really bad.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: You know, they smell all Downy sweet, and you just - from the day you're born, you start smelling worse and worse and worse, until the day you die.

Josh: They have puppy breath to start.

Chuck: I remember going man - I remember my father's bathroom experiences being a kid, and being like oh, my Lord, like am I gonna smell that way one day?

Josh: Yeah, I remember that, too. And then that mixed with like shaving cream smell. Man, there's nothing like it.

Chuck: And you know what, now I smell that way.

Josh: I know. You don't, you smell fine.

Chuck: So back to bacteria. We were talking about millions and millions and millions of these in our body. Our mouth has hundreds of thousands of bacteria species, not just bacteria, and they are in our teeth and our gums and our tongue. They're in our lungs, which we didn't think we used to have them in our lungs. Apparently, there's 2000 per square centimeter. And the gut is where you're gonna find some serious action - 25,000 to 30,000 different species of bacteria.

Josh: Yeah, and they live in colonies we're starting to learn.

Chuck: Condominiums?

Josh: Colonies, where they - I guess bacteria kind of likes to stay with their own ilk. And if you put it all together, you've got like a whole neighborhood of bacteria. But I am pretty confident and once we start to figure out like this colony tends to live in this part of the body, and this colony lives here, I'll bet it helps things function more correctly, and if you move colonies around, I'll bet you find dysfunction.

Chuck: Life balance - or not life balance, but metabolic balance.

Josh: Well, I think that's one of the reasons why it's still fringy, like you - you just kind of put your finger on it, like there's balance and all that, too.

Chuck: Right, sort of esoteric.

Josh: Right, but as you and I know, homeostasis is the goal of everything.

Chuck: That's right. We've talked about it before.

Josh: So you've got it in your mouth. You got bacteria in your guts, and I mean I think the fact that bacteria have more cells in our bodies that we do, kind of supports this idea that Nicholas Gerbis pointed out was that bacteria are probably the most successful life forms on planet Earth.

Chuck: Yeah, what are these guys doing?

Josh: Oh, well, they are breaking down things into other things. They break down nitrogen in the soil to make it absorbable for plants.

Chuck: They produce vitamins in your gut - bacteria do.

Josh: Yeah, how about that? They produce oxygen that we breathe through waste processes.

Chuck: They help maintain your protective qualities of your skin, which is nice.

Josh: Those plants, they kind of turn the tables on those plants. They break down nitrogen in the soil, for plants to take up, and then when we eat the plants, they break the plants down into a digestible slurry.

Chuck: Gross.

Josh: What's it called, bolus or chyme?

Chuck: I think chyme then bolus, or is it bolus then chime?

Josh: Bolus then chyme.

Chuck: They also help prevent and reduce swelling, which is a big deal because swelling can be one of the danger factors if you're sick or injured. A lot of times, people die simply because they can't get the swelling down in order to perform procedures they need to perform. So thank you bacteria for helping with that.

Josh: And then we were talking about babies, too, Chuck. If you wouldn't hold a baby, then you probably shouldn't like shake hands with the baby's mother because that's where the baby gets most of his or her initial bacteria is from the mother. There's about 600 different species found in breast milk. The sugars in breast milk go directly towards cultivating bacteria in the baby's gut. There's a change in the vaginal micro-biome, where they think that possibly the baby is basically coated in this upon entry into the world.

Chuck: Yeah, that's called lactobacillus johnsonii. And that is present when you're pregnant, in your vaginal micro-biome.

Josh: Right, and they think that -

Chuck: You get coated on the way out.

Josh: Yeah, and then all of a sudden, you're like, oh, okay, I've got some defenses here. And these guys are gonna be my friends for the rest of my life.

Chuck: Well, the lactobacillus actually helps them digest the milk, so little BBs that come out, that's why they say if you're born in a Cesarean fashion, then you might not have what you need to digest the milk. You might have problems there. You might have fewer defenses against IBD, inflammatory bowel disease, and what else, MRSA, staph infection, bigger risk of allergies?

Josh: Well, yeah, that coating on your skin, they think that - there's studies that suggest that you're more prone to MRSA infections on the skin. This is still very much under debate. Huge debate between Cesarean and natural birth stuff. It's like a hornet's nest.

Chuck: Oh, I bet.

Josh: But they think that there is a definite link, they imagine between irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disorder, sorry.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Which includes like Crohn's Disease, and ulcerative colitis, and is a big deal. You can lose parts of your intestines. You can die. You can become malnourished. And there's like a $1.7 billion expense in healthcare just from inflammatory bowel disorder alone in the US. And they believe that that's linked to some sort of problem with bacteria in the gut.

Chuck: So all of this small talk about bacteria has been leading to the setup of this podcast, which is drinking the poop shake.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: The fecal transplant, and they call it a transplant, and it makes it sound a little more like a medical procedure than I thought it was. There's no cutting, there's no lasering. There's nothing like that. This has been practiced - something like this has been around since 4th Century China.

Josh: I was looking - I couldn't find anything on that. Could you?

Chuck: Really, no, I couldn't. We should email the author here.

Josh: Okay.

Chuck: But it has been around in earnest since 1958. Dr. Ben Iseman from Denver General Hospital pioneered this - I guess it's a procedure. I was gonna say technique. And it really didn't come around in earnest until about 2000. So here's how it works. Your donor gets screened for hepatitis and HIV, and other disease-causing germs that you don't want. They take the stool of the donor.

Josh: Poop.

Chuck: Poop. They blend it with saline or - this is so gross, four percent milk.

Josh: In a medical blender.

Chuck: Yeah, sure. It's not that Cuisinart. I bet it is a Cuisinart.

Josh: It makes sense that you would use milk. If you want to propagate moss on something, a little bit of buttermilk, little bit of sugar and just take some moss and throw it in a blender all together, press blend, take it and paint in on whatever you want and it will grow.

Chuck: That's right, see our moss podcast for that one.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: So basically, you have the stool sample, the poop, four percent milk and a milkshake machine, and you mix it up, and you feed it to the patient through - you don't have to drink it.

Josh: No, there's different ways to introduce it, but one of them, it does end up in your stomach, and I don't understand how you don't just immediately throw it right back up.

Chuck: All right, so the two methods that Josh will explain are nasogastric, and nasoduodenal.

Josh: Yeah, we never figured that one out in our digestive episode. Remember the duodenum?

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Duodenum.

Chuck: Duodenum, yeah.

Josh: Yeah, well, that's a tube that goes through your nose, and if it's nasogastric, it ends in your stomach, which means you have poop going directly into your stomach. And don't think that four percent milk makes it any easier to take.

Chuck: Through your nose, through your throat, into your stomach.

Josh: Or the nasoduodenum goes through your nose into your stomach, and then into your intestine, so it bypasses your stomach and it goes directly to where you want it, the intestines. When that - you can also do an enema that's designed to stay in rather than flush back out.

Chuck: Oh, and in-ema.

Josh: Yeah, what did you think I said?

Chuck: I don't know. They should call the other ones out-emas, I guess.

Josh: Or a colonoscope. Not a kaleidoscope, although that would work if you turned it around and I guess broke all the glass out ahead of time. It would just be like a funnel then.

Chuck: That's true.

Josh: But the point is you have someone else's poop, a healthier person's poop in your stomach, and they expect that about 40-60 percent of the living bacteria found in that poop is gonna stick around in your intestines. What you're doing, the whole point of a fecal transplant is to repopulate your gut flora, so that your immune system can get back in order.

Chuck: This is the best way they thought of how to do it.

Josh: Yeah, they have another cocktail that they're working on, which is just a bunch of like bacteria that I guess you could take as a pill, but man, this works.

Chuck: Sure, yeah, it seems to. One of the stats we have here is that people who have undergone this - and it's still - well, we'll get to how often it's practiced here in a sec, but one study found that long-term follow up, 77 fecal transplant patients reported a 91 percent cure rate after just one of these, and 98 percent, if you married that with additional probiotics and antibiotics, or an additional poop shake.

Josh: Right, for C. difficile.

Chuck: Yeah, that's 91 percent to 98 percent, that's awesome.

Josh: I don't think that there's anything that has that kind of success rate.

Chuck: Maybe aspirin.

Josh: Maybe so, but yeah, it's definitely been shown to work, and you know, it is fringe, but you can still get it done in hospitals. That's where you want to do it.

Chuck: Yeah, you don't want to do this at home. This is not - in fact, a couple of the best sentences in this article are in this section. First of all, the preparation, you prepare like you would for a colonoscopy, but as our - who wrote this again?

Josh: Nicholas Gerbis.

Chuck: Gerbis put it this way.

Josh: We'll call him Nicky G.

Chuck: Nicky G. says the patient prepares for the procedure via the traditional take-no-prisoners date with the thunder bucket ritual used by colonoscopy patients.

Josh: Yeah, he went from like science writer, science writer, science writer.

Chuck: To Mad Magazine.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: And then he also says this is not a great DIY project because stool is a level two biohazard. No. 2, if you don't test the samples for disease, you could end up in pain and then third, remind us never to drink a frozen margarita at your house. He just went like funny for one paragraph, and then right back to the business.

Josh: Right, well, he says that you want to screen the stool that you're putting into the patient, and insurance doesn't cover this.

Chuck: Not yet.

Josh: No, but they think it will as early as this year - early this year - soon.

Chuck: Early 2013.

Josh: But even still, it's not very cost-prohibitive. It's about $1000.00. I saw - there's a hospital in Madison, Wisconsin that does it for $1300.00.

Chuck: That's pretty cheap.

Josh: It's not bad. And most of that cost is for screening the stool for disease.

Chuck: I thought it would have been the milk.

Josh: No. Or yeah - or pressing the blend button, or holding your breath.

Chuck: Yeah, all the nose clips. So one of the interesting things here moving forward, is how this is going to be - like you said, affect insurance, and how it's gonna be classified if and when it becomes like super legit because what is on the horizon is that the FDA has declared feces a drug in this case because it's being used as a drug in a way.

Josh: It's already a class two biohazard.

Chuck: Right, so now it's a class two biohazard drug according to the FDA, which means - which is good, because that means it's on the way to becoming investigational status.

Josh: Right. Do you remember with the dog show episode, where we were talking about how there's the other breed. I can't remember what it was called, but it was like a breed that didn't fit in anything else - miscellaneous maybe. And that's how the AKC begins to recognize a breed, like it first places it in this miscellaneous thing. I get the impression that this is the same process. The FDA is saying like that's a drug, and by doing so, we're halting all of this stuff. You can't just do it any longer willy-nilly, like now there's a law attached to it. But we're also classifying it as something that we officially recognize that you can now apply for funding to study, and say the FDA recognizes this as a drug. We want to understand it better, so give us some money.

Chuck: That's so interesting though, how are they going to regulate - like this is a drug that is poop. How are they gonna regulate that as far as - I mean because we should point out that most of the time, the donor is a family member or a spouse.

Josh: But it doesn't have to be, or even a blood match, but I think because you share the same environment, you're probably likelier to have a similar gut flora.

Chuck: I think it's probably - has to do with it just being so gross, too, don't you think?

Josh: Maybe.

Chuck: That you don't want to just take some random person's poop and drink it.

Josh: See, the thing is, is I'd almost rather have a stranger's poop because like what if - you know, what if I were doing this, and like the donor is just like staring at you like, my poop is going in your stomach right now. With a random stranger, you can't do that.

Chuck: Talk about surgical theater. So it's gonna be real interesting how they move forward with this. But like we said, huge results, and according to the CDC, C. difficile kills 14,000 people annually, so it's a big problem. And they say it can help with metabolic syndrome maybe.

Josh: Yeah, so metabolic syndrome is a collection of risk factors, like insulin resistance, having a lot of weight around the middle, and basically, it adds up to a higher risk for type two diabetes, coronary artery disease.

Chuck: Yeah, stroke.

Josh: Yeah, stroke, and they've found that a poop transplant can actually reverse the course of this disorder.

Chuck: Yeah, they found this in mice, right?

Josh: Yeah, they think that what is going on is that the - it improves our insulin sensitivity, reduced triglyceride levels, and I think that it has to do with the way that you metabolize sugars. And they also found in rats that if you take the poop from a lean rat, and transfer it to an obese rat, the obese rat loses weight. No other interventions whatsoever. All - just from a poop transplant. And again, they think it has to do with the way that the bacterial colonies help us digest food, help us absorb nutrients. So who knows, like poop transplants could be the weight loss wave of the future.

Chuck: Well, they definitely know that the bacteria in a skinny person's gut is different than an obese person's gut in humans, so there could be something to that.

Josh: And like we're just now beginning to wrap our heads around the idea that the gut, there's something there. There's this thing called the enteric nervous system. And it's basically your lower brain, and it's located in your intestines. Your intestines have a sheath of neurons, about 100 million neurons, which is as many neurons as in the heads of 105 bees, by the way. But it's more than like your parasympathetic nervous system has. And the vagus nerve - do you remember we were talking about orgasms?

Chuck: Oh, yeah, how could I forget?

Josh: And women can still - women who are paralyzed can still have orgasms because the vagus nerve goes around the spinal column directly from like the pubic area of the gut to the brain. Well, they found that 90 percent of transmissions in the vagus nerve go from the gut to the brain, rather than vice versa. They're also figuring out the neurotransmitters, a lot of them, are produced in the gut, like 95 percent of all of our serotonin is found in our gut. So there's definitely something going on.

They're like, well, yeah, it's - this second brain developed to carry out digestion and all this stuff, independent of the brain, so the brain can do other stuff, but scientists are also saying like what we're looking at is way too complex to just be dealing with digestion. So what else is there? Now they're starting to figure out like, oh, there's neurotransmitters, there's a lot of smarts in this gut brain. And they're linking it to things like Parkinson's. It's been linked to autism spectrum disorder. They're starting to figure out like we need to pay more attention to what's going on with these microbes in this gut because there's definitely something here. I feel like this medical ecology thing, it could be a big revolution in science.

Chuck: Agreed, I think they're onto something for sure.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: So I'm sure it'll get more proper funding as it gets more legit, and the FDA will have a lot to do with that.

Josh: I have a feeling this is gonna become too legit to quit in a very short order.

Chuck: Poop shakes all around.

Josh: You got anything else?

Chuck: No, Sir.

Josh: Do you want to say fecal transplant one more time?

Chuck: Fecal transplant.

Josh: If you want to learn more about fecal transplants, you can type those words into the search bar at, and it's time now for the listener mail.

Chuck: Josh, I'm gonna call this condoms in the river.

Josh: Oh, man, I know who this one - this one's mind-blowing

Chuck: Did you read this one?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Guys, I've been an avid listener for some time. I came aboard around aphrodisiacs, got hooked, and listened to the entire catalog. Josh, you requested any info to make sense about the ubiquity of condoms on New York City streets. While I can't shed light on how they got there, I can share with you some firsthand experience what happens to them from that point. I'm a sailboat captain for a sail training and charter company on the Hudson River, and I learned very quickly after starting to work here that you don't touch the river water right after it rains.

This is because the New York City sewage system is so old that the rainwater from storm drains and raw sewage are mixed together and treated by one system. When we get a lot of rain, that system is overwhelmed and the overflow is released untreated into the surrounding bodies of water including the Hudson River. Now, after a long rain, you'd expect to find what I suppose you'd call a representative sample of condoms among the floating garbage. But I'm still trying to figure out why condoms represent a grossly disproportionate percentage of the overall floating trash.

What should be Doritos bag, condom, McDonald's straw, Yoplait Light'n'Fit cup, condom, is actually, condom, condom, condom, Spiderman action figure underneath a condom, condom, condom, dead rat. The situation is disturbing enough on its own, but I teach a kids' sailing camp during the summer as well, and the younger kids inevitably ask me what all those white things are, and I just say those are Coney Island Whitefish. And we had someone else write in that called them Coney Island Whitefish, so I guess this is what they're called.

Josh: Okay, not - what if he's like those are French letters.

Chuck: So those are Coney Island Whitefish, and then I walk away without further explanation. It's best - that's the best way I can think of to avoid further questions from the kids, and potential lawsuits from parents. Other things I've seen come up from the Hudson River, in case you're curious, include mating crabs, a sunburned pig, an entire telephone pole, and three dead bodies.

Josh: That's disturbing.

Chuck: And that is Jonathan, actor/singer/sailor and speed-dating host.

Josh: I know this guy is quite a Renaissance dude.

Chuck: Yeah, thank you Jonathan.

Josh: If you have any awesome incredible stories, we want to hear them, whether they pertain to the podcast or not. Also, before we sign off, we always want to invite you and your friends and family and everybody you know to join us Saturdays at 10 p.m. on Science Channel. You can watch our television show, Stuff You Should Know, right?

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: Well, see you there. You can also get in touch with us during the week at Twitter at syskpodcast, on, at, and via email at - what is it - stuff podcast?

Chuck: At

Female Speaker: For more on this, and thousands of other topics, visit

[End of Audio]

Duration: 33 minutes

Topics in this Podcast: bacteria, howstuffworks, Chuck, Medicine, health,, josh, microbiome