“FMT is still a novel procedure, and we still have much to learn, but by establishing FMT as an available treatment – and not just a ‘last resort’ option for the most severe C. diff infections – it may pave the way for future research and treatments targeting the intestinal microbiota.”
Imagine an unstoppable diarrhea that requires going to the toilet up to 20 times a day - and worst case, dying of exhaustion and dehydration.
This is the reality for around 4000 Danish patients suffering from Clostridioides difficile infection, or just C.diff, each year, and if PhD fellow, MD Simon Mark Dahl Baunwall could decide, most of these patients were offered fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT).
From his research position at the FMT group at Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital, Simon Mark Dahl Baunwall strives to validate different approaches targeting the human microbiota by utilizing the full intestinal microbiota of healthy donors. Currently, Simon Mark Dahl Baunwall is validating a capsulized application form of FMT while conducting a randomized clinical trial.
“FMT is still novel procedure, and we still have much to learn, but by establishing FMT as an available treatment – and not just a ‘last resort’ option for the most severe C. diff infections – it may pave the way for future research and treatments targeting the intestinal microbiota. In doing so, I also hope it may eventually lead to formation of yet undefined clinical areas,” says Simon Mark Dahl Baunwall.
C. diff is an extremely resistant bacterium that survives even in sterile hospital environments. In a weakened patient, it causes a often life-threatening diarrhea that, for one in four patients, cannot be cured by antibiotics.
“Watching several diseased patients improve and benefit from a treatment, I helped develop and refine is a constant reminder that one’s research has an impact,” says Simon Mark Dahl Baunwall who has always had a keen interest in how gastrointestinal diseases develop and can be managed.
He spent the last years establishing the required infrastructure, with the Danish blood banks as a role model and partner, and developing FMT as a secure, accessible treatment together with the so-called CEFTA group led by Simon’s close colleague Christian Lodberg Hvas. And a 17 million DKK grant for CEFTA from the Innovation Fund Denmark not only confirms that the research is on the right path – it has also changed the scale of Simon’s personal research as CEFTA brings together multiple institutions across different disciplines as well as hospitals and universities.
“What really motivates me is to challenge the current understanding of diseases and treatments and to translate the latest scientific knowledge into meaningful clinical practices that benefits patients,” he says.