Joan Andersen is in praise of a new transplant that cured her C. difficile, part of a study underway in Victoria. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Without fecal transplant, life can be a pain in the butt

Saanich resident indebted to new gut flora procedure

It’s not your typical operation, and certainly not one Joan Andersen was ready to talk about with her everyday friends.

But after five bouts of Clostridium difficile infection which led to multiple hospital visits, the 78-year-old Gordon Head resident is thrilled to have put the ongoing cases of bowel inflammation behind her.

“It started Dec. 31 of 2015, or New Year’s Eve, and I’d just thought I’d eaten something that didn’t agree with me,” Andersen said.

It’s a great relief for Andersen, as she underwent a fecal microbiota transplant in April, thanks to a new study run by Dr. Christine Lee with Island Health. Lee is the recipient of a 2017 Health Professional-Investigator Award for her pioneering research in support of people living with chronic gut disorders such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease and Clostridium difficile infection (C. difficile).

In the transplant, the stool from a healthy, screened donor is transplanted in a patient’s colon who suffers from one of the afflictions, as Andersen does.

All Andersen knows is her donor is in St. Catherines, Ont.

“I’m so grateful, it’s really a great thing,” Andersen said. “Being the hospital with an infectious disease, at my age, is not a good thing.”

In a career of 40-plus years in medical labratory science, Andersen was relatively unaware of C difficile’s prevalence. But she still subscribes to the medical journals she always did and has seen it’s rise over the past decade.

“In some ways my history of work was helpful. I didn’t go telling my friends here right away but I was able to talk about it with my lab friends.”

Fecal microbiota transplant, or 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. Lee is part of a provincial group working to make FMT available to recurrent CDI patients across B.C.

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. One in 150 Canadians has IBD – the highest rate in the world. It’s 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.

Add in recurring cases, and recurring treatments of antibiotics, and it’s something that both Canadians and the health care system would like to avoid.

“I ended up on a very heavy antibiotic which I was not happy about,” Andersen said. “I already have an inflammation issue with my sinuses that I am only now able to deal with because of the C. difficile.”

reporter@saanichnews.com

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