A Fantastical Journey Through the Microbiome, Part I - January 2024

A Fantastical Journey Through the Microbiome, Part I - January 2024

By Andrea McBeth, ND

A Fantastical Journey Through the Microbiome: From Thanatos to ThaenaBiotic®, Part I

This month, I’ve decided to tell the tale of Thaena®’s origin, a fascinating journey of innovation, rebirth, and revolution in health and microbiology. (Can you tell I am an avid fan of fantasy fiction?) Rooted in the mythical inspiration of Thanatos, the Greek deity symbolizing the passage from life to death, Thaena® embodies a transformation of this ancient concept, albeit with a modern take.

Our name, Thaena®, a feminized twist on Thanatos, reflects our pride as a female-founded company and represents not just death, but rebirth and reuse. At Thaena®, we have developed a mechanism to breathe new life into waste products (poop) by harnessing poop’s diverse, bioactive postbiotics in a safe, stable, and easily-administrable product. Our story is woven from the threads of scientific curiosity, a pioneering spirit in microbiome therapy, and a deep-rooted belief that sometimes the most groundbreaking discoveries come from reimagining the past. (Yes, sometimes it also feels like we are taking a long walk to Mordor…)

The entirety of Thaena® began with a simple yet profound hypothesis: that the potential of Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) and the transformative effects of heat-killed bacteria could be connected. Bacteria communicate through small molecules, or postbiotics, and this is similar to how our human cells communicate using small molecules to regulate systems throughout the body. Recognizing this connection led us to shift our paradigm, which once focused on engraftment and preserving live bacteria in FMT, and now centers on killing everything and maintaining the small molecules that impart messages of health (via our postbiotic dietary supplement, ThaenaBiotic®).

The Evolution of FMT: From Clinical Practice to a New Frontier in Microbiome Therapy

Our story at Thaena® is deeply intertwined with the transformative experiences and insights gained from our clinical work with FMT as naturopathic doctors. In 2015, a significant turning point occurred when I met Dr. Mark Davis, ND in Portland, Oregon. He, along with Dr. Carmen Campbell, ND, had adapted a technique for creating oral, FMT capsules. (This method was originally pioneered by Thomas Borody in Australia and was later published by Youngster et al. in 2014.) In the early days of FMT within the broader US medical system, the focus of donors was primarily on the infectious disease risk, paying little attention to their diet and lifestyle (1). While this approach was prudent, it overlooked the broader implications of a donor’s overall health on the treatment's efficacy. Ultimately, the influence of naturopathic medicine led us to think more critically about what truly constitutes a 'healthy' donor and, inspired by these innovations, Dr. Piper Dobner and I opened our own FMT clinic in 2018. We felt called to do this groundbreaking work and expand access to care for patients suffering from Clostridioides difficile (C. diff) infections.

As we treated patients, glimpses of the microbiome's profound influence on health and disease began to emerge. FMT, in many ways, seemed miraculous. Patients who had suffered from months of severe diarrhea often reported experiencing a dramatic shift, moving from acutely ill to tears of joy within 24 hours after receiving treatment. We heard about patients’ symptoms of depression and fatigue improving frequently. Patients sharing their stories of crying on the toilet after a formed poop became a common occurrence. We believed these stories were a testament to FMT's impact. 

In the background, and although FMT's effectiveness was undeniable, it also raised numerous questions and provoked deep intrigue. Clinical trials soon began to reveal FMT’s potential in treating a variety of diseases, ranging from autism and liver disease to enhancing cancer immunotherapy responses (2). With these realizations came an understanding of the limitations in FMT's widespread application, especially concerning standardization and safety challenges related to the potential risks of transmitting fecal-oral infectious agents from donor to health-compromised recipients. This concern was further amplified during the COVID19 pandemic and with the knowledge that pre-emptive screening for all potential pathogens would not be feasible. Ultimately, these issues prompted us, as practitioners, to seek new options that could offer a safer FMT option – potentially an alternative – that would be easier to administer but still capture the benefits of the rich milieu of molecules present in the gut microbiome… but let’s not jump too far ahead in this story.

A pivotal moment in our understanding came with the observation that FMT could effectively treat C. diff from a wide variety of preparations, including sterile filtrates, as demonstrated in a 2017 study by Ott et al. (3, 4). This discovery challenged the commonly held belief that the efficacy of FMT relied solely on the engraftment of 'good' bacteria, which would require the bacteria to be alive, and it supported our brewing approach: akin to how cells communicate through small molecules, perhaps some of the active components of FMT were the microbially-produced small molecules, or postbiotics... 

We define postbiotics as metabolic byproducts from the fermentation process of bacteria, although there are a variety of definitions (ISAPP and some others). We know that dietary fibers from plants are transformed into postbiotics, which can traverse the mucus layer, enter our bloodstream, and interact with various organs throughout the body (5). These postbiotics also diffuse throughout the microbiome, modulating the local environment within its complex bacterial ecosystem (6). What if these postbiotics were all we needed?! 

When we realized that we could retain this important composition of postbiotics while eliminating the live microbes, enabling us to preclude the infectious disease safety concerns associated with live stool products, we knew we were onto something. Our solution, and what we’re still doing today, embodies the essence of Thaena®: death leading to reuse.

THAT, my friends, is just the first part of our story. Stay tuned for Part II, where I’ll pick up where I left off and dive deeper into ThaenaBiotic®’s evolution from FMT, pasteurization, and heat-killed pro- and postbiotics.


  1. Paramsothy, S., Borody, T. J., Lin, E., Finlayson, S., Walsh, A. J., Samuel, D., van den Bogaerde, J., Leong, R. W. L., Connor, S., Ng, W., Mitchell, H. M., Kaakoush, N., & Kamm, M. A. (2015). Donor Recruitment for Fecal Microbiota Transplantation. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, 21(7), 1600–1606. https://doi.org/10.1097/MIB.0000000000000405 
  2. Wang, Y., Zhang, S., Borody, T. J., & Zhang, F. (2022). Encyclopedia of fecal microbiota transplantation: a review of effectiveness in the treatment of 85 diseases. Chinese Medical Journal, 135(16), 1927–1939. https://doi.org/10.1097/CM9.0000000000002339 
  3. McBeth, A., & Dobner, P. (2019). Fecal Transplant: How an Ancient Therapy Is Finding a New Use in Today’s Antibiotic-Resistant Era. Journal of Restorative Medicine, 8(1), 19–29. https://doi.org/10.14200/jrm.2019.0117 
  4. Ott, S. J., Waetzig, G. H., Rehman, A., Moltzau-Anderson, J., Bharti, R., Grasis, J. A., Cassidy, L., Tholey, A., Fickenscher, H., Seegert, D., Rosenstiel, P., & Schreiber, S. (2017). Efficacy of Sterile Fecal Filtrate Transfer for Treating Patients With Clostridium difficile Infection. Gastroenterology, 152(4), 799–811.e7. https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2016.11.010 
  5. Dodd, D., Spitzer, M. H., Van Treuren, W., Merrill, B. D., Hryckowian, A. J., Higginbottom, S. K., Le, A., Cowan, T. M., Nolan, G. P., Fischbach, M. A., & Sonnenburg, J. L. (2017). A gut bacterial pathway metabolizes aromatic amino acids into nine circulating metabolites. Nature, 551(7682), 648–652. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature24661 
  6. Kunst, C., Schmid, S., Michalski, M., Tümen, D., Buttenschön, J., Müller, M., & Gülow, K. (2023). The Influence of Gut Microbiota on Oxidative Stress and the Immune System. Biomedicines, 11(5). https://doi.org/10.3390/biomedicines11051388