Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Human Probiotic Infusion -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Human Probiotic Infusion

TRANSCRIPT

Comments

Quite simply, HPI involves infusing a patient with someone else's faeces. It's a confronting
treatment, but one which patients suffering from the tummy superbug, Clostridium difficile, are
prepared to undertake in order to get their lives back to normal. Maryanne Demasi follows one
patient through the treatment process which has a remarkably high success rate.

Deanne

Yeah, I want to break free of these chains. A chronic illness, you really feel like there's no
light at the end of the tunnel. Well it started off with bleeding from my bowel, which is pretty
scary. And that's been kind of an ongoing thing. Extreme abdominal pain, sweats, fevers. Along with
that, also a lot of depression as well, and anxiety.

NARRATION

It's unclear how, but Deanne caught a tummy bug called Clostridium difficile, or C.difficile. It's
a super-bug that can be virtually impossible to treat.

Professor Thomas Borody

There is a percentage of patients with C.difficile infection, who will go into the relapsing stage
where you cannot get rid of the bug, because it makes spores.

NARRATION

But Professor Thomas Borody has been using a radical treatment to cure this condition. I'd been
reading literature and I came across this paper from 1958, where an inflammatory condition
responded to restoration of the bowel flora.

NARRATION

It's called human probiotic infusion. Put simply, Deanne will be infused with someone else's
faeces.

Professor Thomas Borody

We have a bank of donors who we know and we test every few weeks. Donors have to be healthy people
who have been screened for any known possible disease and their stools are tested. With some
saline, homogenised in a blender, filtered through a simple, kitchen-type filter until it's able to
be injected through a channel inside the colonoscope.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

It's hard to believe that this faeces could be a medical therapy.

Professor Thomas Borody

Bowel flora is made up of huge numbers of bacteria. So poo is a zoo. It contains living animals,
you can call it bacteria. So it's a living organ that lives inside our colon. It has a few jobs,
including destroying the waste. It itself is not waste. And so the transplantation procedure brings
in bacteria which were removed, and they implant.

NARRATION

I'm about to follow Deanne as she undergoes this confronting treatment, which she hopes will change
her life.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

Big day for you today?

Deanne

Yes it is, and I'm just so excited.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

Yeah?

Deanne

Yeah.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

So you don't feel too icky having some donor faecal material being transplanted in?

Deanne

I know that it does sound a bit gross, and a bit undignified and not very ladylike. But at the end
of the day, I just want to be restored and have my life back.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

Yeah, exactly.

NARRATION

C.difficile releases a toxin that destroys the bowel lining and causes ulcers. The symptoms are
similar to severe food poisoning, and in extreme cases can lead to death.

Professor Thomas Borody

The worst strain that we know of started in Canada, around the year 2000, where it is thought it
mutated, and produced the super-strain. It's now moved into North America, and the first strains
have arrived, but they're in very low numbers in Australia.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

Should we be concerned about this?

Professor Thomas Borody

I think we should be. There are measures that have been put in place to try and prevent the spread
of it. But once a hospital is infected, it's very difficult to disinfect the hospital.

NARRATION

Dr Borody is not being an alarmist. He says this infection has become an epidemic in the US,
killing around 300 Americans every day. He believes antibiotics are one of the major causes.

Professor Thomas Borody

Over-use of antibiotics can certainly damage your bowel flora. Or the microbiome, as we call it.
And so for the last fifty years, we have been hitting our bowel flora with antibiotics. So now
we're trying to repair it.

NARRATION

Seven years ago, Coralie was struck down by a strain of C.difficile after taking a course of
antibiotics for a simple dental procedure.

Coralie

I couldn't believe I was in so much pain that, I, I well, I really thought that my life was over.
So changed everything.

NARRATION

The antibiotics she took were toxic to the good bacteria in her bowel, allowing resistant ones like
C.difficile to thrive.

Coralie

I never ate anything. Because the severity of the pain I was unable to walk. So it was not good.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

You still seem really affected by it.

Coralie

Yeah.

NARRATION

Coralie was one of the first patients to have a faecal infusion.

Professor Thomas Borody

She wasn't very happy going ahead, but because she was so ill, she agreed to have an implant.

NARRATION

After a single infusion, Coralie noticed a dramatic improvement.

Coralie

For the first week after, there wasn't one case of severe symptoms.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

So you were already seeing improvements, a week after the procedure?

Coralie

Definitely, definitely.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

Right, and then what happened?

Coralie

By the fourth week, I was symptom-free.

NARRATION

Dr Borody boasts a ninety-five per cent success rate. The theory is that donor faeces acts like a
probiotic, to restore the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

Deanne is now being sedated, ready for her infusion of donor faeces.

NARRATION

A routine colonoscopy reveals the extent of damage in her bowel.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

Certainly does look quite ulcerated, doesn't it?

Professor Thomas Borody

That's a colitis, quite bad. A lot of cobblestoning and pseudo-polyps. Puss. She didn't go well.

NARRATION

It's time for the faecal slurry to be infused in Deanne's colon.

Professor Thomas Borody

These bacteria have been through a blender, so they're kind of dizzy. And after a few hours, they
find an environment there which is warm, dark, and it becomes their new home. The last syringe
going in now, and just going to flush it through with some saline. Sixty to eighty per cent of the
donor stool bacteria remains in the recipient. And I believe they make molecules which kill off not
just the bugs, but also the spores.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

Are you happy with the procedure?

Professor Thomas Borody

Yes, I'm happy with what we did.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

So what do you expect in the next couple of weeks?

Professor Thomas Borody

Well she should reduce having frequency of diarrhoea, and if you look inside there again, it'll be
more healed. She will have less urgency and possibly less blood being passed.

NARRATION

Dr Borody says our attitude towards faeces needs to change.

Professor Thomas Borody

It's made up mostly of bacterial cells, and the number of bacteria is a fascinating statistics.
There's about nine times more living bacterial cells in our stool than there are living cells in
our body. So that in effect we are ten per cent human, and ninety per cent poo.

NARRATION

The big question now is whether this rather rudimentary science will move beyond the need for using
human faeces.

Professor Thomas Borody

Ultimately there will be a non-faecal method of doing it, but I think that might take some years.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

So how are you feeling?

Deanne

Um, I'm feeling good, considering. Yeah, still just a little bit uncomfortable, but you know I feel
really, just mentally at peace.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

What are you looking forward to the most?

Deanne

Just regaining those natural pleasures of life. Because this condition as left me completely spent.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

Yeah.

Deanne

And so just to have the energy to enjoy life, live life and live it to the full. So, that to me is
just going to be the best.

NARRATION

Three weeks later, Deanne is free of stomach pain, and she's hopeful she'll stay that way.