Changing the game: a less invasive way to treat a devastating condition
Before enrolling in Dr. Kao's clinical trial at the University of Alberta Hospital, Karen Shandro was"spiraling downward every day" due to recurrent C. difficile infections.Within 48 hours of receiving Dr. Kao’s groundbreaking treatment, Karen had her life back.
Dr. Dina Kao – a gastroenterologist who has been supported by donors to the University Hospital Foundation since 2013 (in the amount of $356,905) – is garnering international attention from the likes of TIME Magazine, the National Post and Reuters.
And rightfully so. Dr. Kao’s research is game changing for patients suffering from Clostrium difficile (C. difficile). People with this infection typically suffer from diarrhea, cramping and other gastrointestinal difficulties. For many, the pain and fear of public embarrassment is debilitating. But C. difficile is not incurable.
Above: Dr. Dina Kao, gastroenterologist at the University of Alberta Hospital.
“I felt like I couldn’t go out and about,” said Karen Shandro. “I had unbearable diarrhea, no appetite, chills and fever, and I couldn’t keep any food in me."
In 2016, Karen was one of approximate 200 Albertan cases of C. difficile.
Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT) has shown to be 96 percent effective in treating the condition.The concept of FMT is simple (in theory): transfer fecal bacteria from a healthy donor to a person suffering from C. difficile. Usually, the FMT procedure is done by colonoscopy. Thanks to Dr. Kao’s latest research, people with C. difficile can receive this treatment with less medical risk – it’s now available in capsule form.
Dr. Kao’s clinical trial – which also boasts a 96 percent success rate – has shown that FMT is as effective (in treating C. difficile) when delivered by capsule as when delivered by colonoscopy. Last month, Kao’s findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
“There’s really no procedure required at all,” says Dr. Kao. “The capsules are non-invasive, they’re less expensive, and they don’t have the same risks.”
Above: Karen Shandro (left) demonstrates the capsule form treatment.
Based on the results, Dr. Kao expects capsule FMT treatment will become increasingly common. And that’s good news for patients, their families, and the healthcare system. She anticipates that this procedure will save the healthcare system about $1,000 per patient.
For patients like Karen Shandro – who took 59 of the tasteless, odourless capsules – the results were immediate. Within 48 hours of arriving in Emergency, she had an appetite again and felt comfortable leaving her home for the first time in two months.
“I just want everyone to know about this research,” concludes Karen. “It changed my life.”
“It’s exciting, because we are only at the tip of the iceberg as far as knowing what fecal transplants can do,” says Dr. Kao.
Dr. Kao’s ongoing research is exploring the role of FMT in curing other gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn’s Disease, a chronic inflammatory disease of the intestines.
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