Undark interviews Ishaq about ethics of fecal sampling from indigenous people

Undark interviewed Sue Ishaq, assistant professor of animal and veterinary sciences at the University of Maine, for the article about ethical issues faced when scientists collect fecal samples from indigenous people. Scientists collect feces from indigenous people to study microorganisms in their digestive tracts that members of industrialized societies have lost. Information derived from the samples could help explain why the collective health of urbanites appears to be in decline. Ishaq believes that discussions about determining the best ethics for collecting fecal and other human samples from indigenous people needs to happen now. One issue involves the ownership of excrement after it leaves the body. The Raute people declined to provide fecal samples because they believe their body, including anything that leaves it, and all their belongings should return to the soil, according to the article. Ishaq said that the ever-changing nature of the gut microbiome, a living ecosystem whose members can move from person to person or vanish, increases the complexity of the issue.