WA to host life-changing clinical trial

WA to host life-changing clinical trial

Perth will be at the centre of a clinical trial that could change the lives of countless people suffering from recurrent Clostridium difficile infection, a condition that significantly compromises the quality of life for some people.

The Australian Red Cross Lifeblood is launching a pilot to provide Fiona Stanley Hospital with a reliable supply of donated stool for faecal microbiota transplants. The transplants will treat patients with recurrent Clostridium difficile, a serious and life-threatening bacterial infection within the digestive system.

Latest data shows approximately 2,500 people with recurrent Clostridium difficile in Australia could benefit from faecal microbiota transplants.

The pilot, scheduled to begin in mid-2020, has been made possible with the support of HBF’s inaugural Community Partnership Grant and the McCusker Charitable Foundation.

WA Regional Director of the Lifeblood, Brett King, said they are committed to delivering a greater contribution to healthcare in Australia.

“The Lifeblood is a trusted organisation that has been safely collecting, testing and distributing life-saving products to the community for 90 years,” Mr King said.

“The Perth Processing Centre is well-positioned to make high-quality faecal microbiota accessible to clinicians at Fiona Stanley Hospital to help overcome this health challenge.”

For this pilot, the Lifeblood will recruit approximately 50 healthy volunteer donors from an already identified pool. The donations will be processed and tested in a dedicated facility at the Lifeblood’s Perth Processing Centre, before being supplied to Fiona Stanley Hospital for transplantation into patients.

Dr Oliver Waters, consultant gastroenterologist at Fiona Stanley Hospital, said recurrent Clostridium difficile is a debilitating condition which is difficult to treat and can be fatal.

“Faecal microbiota transplant has a 90 per cent success rate for treating recurrent Clostridium difficile, but we have struggled with a reliable supply of suitable transplant material in the past,” Dr Waters said.

“There is currently a surge of interest in the gut microbiome and its role in health and disease and establishing a reliable supply of transplant material in WA will undoubtedly stimulate more research in this area, with the potential to develop new treatments for many different conditions including ulcerative colitis.”

Perth archaeologist Fiona Hook knows firsthand the life-changing impact of a faecal microbiota transplant.

Ms Hook became ill with Clostridium difficile in December 2017 and when traditional antibiotic treatment failed, felt her life virtually ground to a halt.

“I am such an active, energetic person normally, but I physically just wasn’t capable.” Ms Hook said. “I was very tired and very unwell. I was going to the toilet every 20 minutes at some stages of my illness and was in excruciating pain.”

In March 2018, Ms Hook received her transplant at Fiona Stanley Hospital during a day procedure and has not had a symptom, or taken an antibiotic since. She is officially free of Clostridium difficile infection.

Ms Hook said while she understands some people might find the thought of the procedure a bit unpalatable at first, she didn’t hesitate when offered the transplant.

“I knew if I kept taking antibiotics there was only a tiny chance they’d work, and the side effects were horrible,” she said. “I’m so happy to hear about this pilot so more people can have access to reliable transplant material and be cured, just like I was.”