Microbioma Review of Microbioma.org. (2022)

Microbioma.org

Michael Harrop

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Taken down elsewhere, so re-posting it here.

Evidence: https://humanmicrobiome.info/where-to-get-fmt/#microbiomaorg
I volunteered with them for two years. I ran the North America portion. Helped translate the website to English, hired people to create flyers, spread thousands of flyers in my area, purchased ads for finding donors, screened hundreds of donors. I'm the creator of the largest hub of scientific info on the gut microbiome and FMT, so I'm very knowledgeable on this stuff, and driven by my own poor health. I had the expertise, and Ivan had the platform.

I wanted to keep prices low to be affordable for everyone. They kept insisting on raising prices, so I split off and started up my own project.

There were no problems for the next 9 months or so. There were accounts that posted positive reviews on social media, and people were skeptical about the veracity of them, but no major issues other than that. But then someone reported on Reddit that the Microbioma owner lied to them about the donor's medical conditions, and the stool recipient contracted eczema from the donor. This was brought up on an FMT Facebook group, and the Microbioma owner responded by doubling down on more and more lies.

Since I had insider information from my time with them, I shared that to show the owner was lying. Somehow they got the admin of the group to remove people who share that information. So it was shared on Reddit. Instead of trying to counter the evidence, they then attempted to purge the internet of every mention of this information. They used false copyright claims, claimed it was private information, made a bunch of alt accounts to brigade and astroturf, hired 3rd parties to join in, posted fake & malicious reviews in retaliation on those that were helping share the information, and even hired lawyers to send legal threats.

Their behavior is eerily similar to Putin/Russia. They preemptively accuse their detractors of doing all the same unethical things that they themselves are doing.

Then people started reporting getting worse. It seems like about 1/3rd of people are reporting getting worse, 1/3rd report no difference, and 1/3rd report benefits. If you look at the scientific literature, 1/3rd getting worse is not a thing. Despite what Microbioma-associated accounts claim, this is not normal. The literature shows FMT to be very safe. This is very clearly a low quality donor promoted by someone who only cares about milking as much money as possible from people who don't know any better.

Due to my 2 years of volunteer work with them, I was offered to use the donor for free. Despite my health being extremely poor, and thus being quite desperate for a donor, I declined due to the above issues. Yet supposedly there are people spending tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars on them.


Original 25 Aug 2022 (2 comments).
 
FMT Clinics
  1. I included all required info
I spent a few months in the big Facebook FMT group trying to see what was going on. My conclusion is that it's very obviously controlled by Microbioma. And I'm quite surprised by how many people are acting as if everything is normal; including academics and other similar persons who should be strongly opposed to such a disreputable operation.

It doesn't seem to just be one person or a small group of people. It seems to be 15+ accounts by a marketing agency or something like that. And there's often new accounts brought in to continue the same behavior but make it seem more organic. They're also on many more groups than just that one.

The admin seems to be in on it as well. Any comment critical about Microbioma goes missing. And they even started removing comments that mention other providers, so that it seems like Microbioma is the only option available to anyone.

Any time someone asks about provider options it's only Microbioma mentioned. And it's always the same handful of people. Even when it doesn't make sense like "who's the most affordable", which Microbioma obviously isn't.

I saw in some reddit comments that Sue Pa was accused to be a ring leader. I went to her for her side of the story and she lied to me. Everything I saw and experienced in that group seems to confirm the accusations I read on reddit and elsewhere. She's trying to turn it into a "war" instead of a scammer retaliating for being outed. Someone else also called her out on her obviously-ungenuine behavior, and it was removed.

It's quite a toxic environment in that group. There's a group of people who troll anyone who mentions their target in a neutral or positive way, or shares information they don't like. They try to bully people into silence and cause as much chaos as they can. They even do it to each other, while still hitting their targets in the crossfire. As a result, people left the group voluntarily so now it's even more of an echo chamber.

Their attacks can be extremely vicious; aimed at destroying the reputation of their detractors. They never present any support for their claims and accusations; they just make broad, unfalsafiable statements. Sometimes they make general inferences to a broad location like "reddit", and when I look into it the evidence and discussions seem to disprove the accusations. It was to the point where I was wondering if they were doing it on purpose, i.e. scammers or hired goons with a bit of a conscience, giving people enough info where they could be alerted to the scam if they did their due diligence. I know that's often the mindset of scammers as well - i.e. "it's their fault for being stupid".

I felt responsible to try to warn a few people, but myself and others just got trolled by the group of troublemakers as a result. Some of the people I warned may have just been more Microbioma accounts. I'm not sure there's much anyone can do other than share information publicly so people can research it for themselves if they bother. Facebook is pretty notorious for not being a good source of information, so people still treating it as a reliable source are kind of asking for trouble.

The quality of information there is pretty bad, so it's not like anyone's missing out on anything. A few people pretend to be experts but they seem to either be bullshitting or taking info from reddit and https://humanmicrobiome.info/ without providing credit or mentioning or linking to the source.

I guessed that many of the people openly declaring that they're buying from Microbioma were just Microbioma accounts, since who in their right mind would buy a highly risky medical product from someone exposed to be a serial liar. But I think some of them might be real people. Which makes me wonder if they don't bother doing any research outside of a couple facebook groups, or if they did read everything and still purchase from them despite there being many other better and cheaper options.

I can see why people avoid making themselves targets of this group, but at the same time the inaction allows them to flourish, and that harms all of us, as well as the whole field. This whole thing seems so sad and unnecessarily destructive and harmful.

I agree with what you said about the community having some responsibility so that we don't end up with only these kinds of disreputable providers. So I tried to do what I could, but unfortunately there was little assistance from others. A few people messaged me saying they were afraid to speak up due to retaliation.

Recently, they either toned down their attacks, or got better at hiding their activity. But also, their activity seems to correspond with the amount of orders they get, i.e. they go more silent once they're getting lots of orders.

Overall it's pretty remarkable that the seller of a risky medical product who was exposed to be a serial liar could continue to thrive as if nothing happened. You would think that most people would be outraged and help warn people.

I appreciate everything you do and hope that groups like this don't bring an end to it.
One of the people I thought was fake recently announced they got worse from Microbioma, so I guess they weren't fake... Astonishing really. I understand your frustration, to say the least.

Original 25 Aug 2022.
 
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