Island Health’s Dr. Christine Lee is the recipient of a 2017 Health Professional-Investigator Award. The award, through the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR), is designed to decrease the gap between health research and implementation by supporting health professionals apply their clinical expertise to research questions.
Dr. Lee is pioneering research in support of people living with chronic gut disorders such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, also known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and Clostridium difficile infection (CDI or C. difficile). One in 150 Canadians has IBD – the highest rate in the world. CDI is the leading cause of health care-related infection in Canada and according to the National Centre for Biotechnology costs approximately $280 million a year to treat. Recurring CDI following treatment with antibiotics is approximately 30% but increases to 60% after two or more recurrences.
A major factor in developing IBD or CDI is an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut. Current treatments to restore healthy colonic flora are often ineffective and costly.
Dr. Lee is a world leader in fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) where stool from a healthy, screened donor is transplanted in an IBD or CDI patient to restore healthy flora in the colon. FMT is not available in most health care facilities in Canada and is not approved outside clinical trials for IBD patients. However, in 2015, Health Canada changed its regulations to allow for FMT treatments in patients with recurrent CDI. Dr. Lee is part of a provincial group working to make FMT available to recurrent CDI patients across B.C.
The challenges of establishing a FMT program are finding suitable donors, laboratory support and the shelf-life of fresh and frozen stools. A solution may include freeze-dried (Lyophilized) L-FMT. Dr. Lee has used L-FMT on 60 patients and the results are similar to fresh or frozen FMT.
With the MSFHR funding, $90,000 a year for three years, Dr. Lee and the team will confirm the safety of L-FMT through long-term contact with transplant recipients to establish a safe and effective L-FMT program that can be implemented across Canada. The ultimate goal is to offer cost-effective treatment and restore health and quality of life for people who suffer with chronic gut disorders.
- 1,200 bacteria species create our colonic flora
- If you stretched out an adult’s small intestine, it would be about 22 feet long (6.7 meters)
- The large intestine measures 5 feet (about 1.5 meters) long if you spread it out
- Fresh stools must be transplanted within 6 hours
- Frozen stools have a 30-day shelf life at -20°C for transplant
- Freeze-dried stools can be kept for more than a year for transplant
- Stools can be transplanted via colonoscopy, enema (Dr. Lee uses this method) or nasogastric tube (through the nose)
- FMT has 85% effective rate after 2 treatments
For more information on Dr. Lee and the ten other 2017 Health Professional-Investigator Award winners in B.C., please visit www.MSFHR.org online