Poo bank opens new lab to help fight inflammatory bowel conditions.
Australia’s first ‘poo bank’, pioneered in Adelaide to help fight debilitating gut conditions, is pushing to go global with the launch of a new purpose-built laboratory in Thebarton this week.
The poo bank, known as BiomeBank and supported by The Hospital Research Foundation, stores donated stool to give patients who are fighting inflammatory bowel conditions access to a procedure called faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT).
FMT involves processing stool from a healthy person (who has undergone stringent screening) and transplanting it into the bowel of a patient with disease to help replenish the good bacteria within the patient’s gut, effectively curing them of the disease.
BiomeBank co-founders Dr Sam Costello and Dr Rob Bryant said FMT was proving to be a lifesaving procedure for patients with debilitating Clostridioides Difficile (C-Diff) infection and has shown promising results in other bowel conditions.
“We have been facilitating FMT for patients with C-Diff since 2013 with a cure rate of about 90 per cent,” Dr Costello said.
“However, access to this therapy has been limited to South Australia due to restrictions on transporting the faecal product across state borders. With the new laboratory, we aim to gain the crucial accreditation needed from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to enable safe and reliable stool distribution interstate and also internationally.”
With BiomeBank’s quality-controlled screening, storage, processing and transport practices, Dr Costello estimates more than 500 Australians a year could be cured of C-Diff.
People with C-Diff often get the infection after taking antibiotics as they have a reduced diversity of bacteria in their gut. Some patients may experience diarrhea, blood in their stool and dehydration, while others can develop severe bowel inflammation that can result in death or toxic shock.
“In addition to treating patients with C-Diff, trials have shown promising results in inducing remission of Ulcerative Colitis – an inflammatory bowel disease with symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain and bleeding. We are currently conducting a trial to determine if we can maintain remission of this disease,” Dr Costello said.
“We are also collaborating on a trial for autologous (self) FMT for patients undergoing chemotherapy, where patients save their own stool prior to chemo for re-administration into the bowel after their treatment, to reduce the risk of complications associated with depleted gut microbiota after chemotherapy.”
New state-of-the-art laboratory
The opening of BiomeBank’s new purpose-built laboratory at Thebarton on 11 March hopes to be the final step in the crucial TGA accreditation process, in order to ship stool interstate and internationally to doctors and hospitals which can administer FMT.
The laboratory contains a stool processing space with anaerobic chamber, stool storage space with three minus-80 degree freezers, plus a research and development space with second anaerobic chamber.
The facility aims to meet Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards and will soon be assessed by the TGA to allow stool distribution across state and international borders.
“We hope to be approved later this year so we can start distributing stool as soon as possible. Access to FMT should not depend on where you live,” Dr Bryant said.
“All proceeds from the supply of stool for FMT will be used for further research and development in FMT and defined bacterial therapies that may eventually replace FMT.”
Fighting for better treatments
CEO of The Hospital Research Foundation, Paul Flynn said BiomeBank’s work was changing the way bowel conditions were treated in the community.
“There is strong evidence to suggest that reduced diversity in gut bacteria plays an important role in the development of many of the most common chronic diseases including obesity, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, fatty liver disease, autoimmune disease and autism,” Mr Flynn said.
“The Hospital Research Foundation fights to find cures and together with BiomeBank, we can help thousands of people battling debilitating gut conditions.
“In 2019 alone, 30 C-Diff patients in South Australia successfully undertook FMT to improve their symptoms and quality of life. We want to help more people beat this horrible disease and provide hope to the many others battling bowel-related illnesses.”
BiomeBank saved Jo’s life!
Jo O’Brien’s life was turned upside down when she picked up ‘a bug’ after a prolonged period on antibiotics, which resulted in severe bowel issues and ended up being diagnosed as C-Diff.
At its worst Jo found herself going to the toilet 12-15 times a day and then another five times overnight, meaning she rarely left the house and stopped eating many meals altogether.
“I would eat maybe three times a week. It gets to the stage where if you don’t eat, you don’t have to go to the toilet,” she said.
“I’d be in the car, get to the end of the driveway and my fingers would start tingling because I had to go to the bathroom again and I had only just been.”
Her relationships and overall quality of life was slowly deteriorating when she was eventually referred to BiomeBank co-founder Dr Sam Costello.
A FMT was recommended which completely changed Jo’s life!
“For me now when I go out I don’t have to sit on a towel while I am driving, or take a spare set of clothes with me just in case.
“Every single day I’m so grateful to have had the transplant.”
To help even more people access this revolutionary procedure and improve research into FMT, make a donation via the BiomeBank website.