This study investigates how English-language news sources represented faecal microbiota transplants (FMT) between 2003 and 2017. In the context of this study, FMT is understood to be the process of transferring stool from a healthy donor to a recipient with a dysfunctional intestinal flora in order to repopulate their gut microbiome. A corpus of news articles on FMT, was produced by searching for ‘fa(e)cal microbial’, ‘microbiota transplant‘ and ‘stool transplant’ on the Nexis UK news database, generating a corpus suitable for qualitative analysis (n = 504 articles). In order to uncover emerging social representations, we investigated press coverage of stool transplants, as well as broader themes associated with health and the gut microbiome. Our findings show that print media focused particularly on creating novel, mainly hopeful, social representations of faeces through wordplay and punning, side-lining issues of risk and fear. We also identify changing metaphorical framings of microbes and bacteria from ‘enemies’ to ‘friends’. Additionally, we found readers are familiarised with FMT through the depiction of the process as being both mundane and highly medicalised. We argue emerging media representations have the potential to shape more positive social representations of FMT in the general population, paving the way for FMT to become a more socially acceptable and effective medical procedure. Future research can build on this baseline in order to study how social representations circulate in the wider media and public sphere, and how they may change over time and differ between countries as research into FMT progresses.


  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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