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    Belgium tops donor list as stool bank seeks samples

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    Belgium is already high on the list of registered organ donors in Europe, with 30.6 donors per million inhabitants, second only to Croatia with 31.8. A new campaign run by Kortrijk city council in West Flanders is set to give that figure a boost. The city is running a campaign to encourage residents to sign up to become a registered donor, addressed to anyone who comes to city hall to register a change of address, for example, or pick up a new driving licence. Already, the number of sign-ups has grown by 3,200, the VRT reports. The city aims to increase that number to 5,000 by the end of September. Kortrijk has about 75,700 residents.

    Belgium operates an opt-out system for organ donations: everyone is a potential donor unless they expressly opt out. However, even for those who agree to give up their organs after death, an objection can still be raised by family members – something that occurs in 15-20% of all cases, according to a city spokesperson. Registration as a donor over-rides any later objection by family.

    Doctors estimate that one donor is capable, in the best of circumstances, of saving the health and lives of up to eight other people.

    Meanwhile in related news, the clinical biology department of the university of Ghent is looking for stool donors – the polite name for samples of faeces – for their stool sample database, which opened in May. The lab is hermetically sealed and temperature controlled, and also analyses other samples of body fluids, including saliva, urine and blood.

    The database is the first of its kind in the country, and is appealing for samples from people who have a normal healthy sample for later use as faecal transplant – where a donated sample of healthy faeces is transplanted into a patient suffering from an intestinal ailment, in the hope of seeding their intestines with healthy bacteria from the donor.

    Not only must donors be healthy, they must also be prepared to provide five samples a month and to live in the Ghent area. Hospital workers are excluded. More details at www.uzgent.be/gsb.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times