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As part of Wishlist’s $1million commitment to the needs of the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service annual research grants are available to local Health staff.

From lasts years applications a record $330,623 was awarded to successful Sunshine Coast medical researchers as a result of Wishlist’s 2014 Research Funding Round.

Associate Professor Johan van den Bogaerde of Nambour was awarded $45,500 for his breakthrough study of Faecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) which alternatively could change the way Ulcerative Colitis (inflammatory bowel disease) is treated.

Inflammatory bowel disease, including Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Crohn’s Disease, affects over 60,000 Australians. This nation has the highest number of sufferers of inflammatory bowel disease in the world. (Health Direct Australia)

From what is known about UC, it is an auto-immune disease in which the body’s immune cells attack the colon. It’s a disease that leaves sufferers with a string of painful and often embarrassing issues with five percent of sufferers needing complex surgery that’s often riddled with side effects. With current therapies, patients can become very ill and the therapies are difficult to monitor and have substantial side effects. FMT is a natural approach to treating UC.

Using the research funding provided by Wishlist, Associate Professor Johan van de Bogaerde of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Nambour Hospital along with Professor Michael Cam and Professor Hazel Mitchell are conducting a trial to assess the safety and effectiveness of FMT in chronic active UC. FMT is essentially inserting faecal microbiota provided by donors into the patient via colonoscopy.

Professor Bogaerde explains how stools are donated by volunteers who have to be healthy and no infections or blood in the stool. It is collected, processed, placed in enema bags, frozen and stored at minus 80 degrees. The stool is then sent to the hospital by courier on dry ice and then implemented via colonoscopy.

“The patients and the doctors don’t know which patients are getting which treatments so there is no bias in the study,” Professor Bogaerde said.

“We can then see what is or isn’t working, so either way it’s a win- win study.”

The study has previously been tested in cases of Clostridium Colitis, which is a bug in the bowel often after a course of antibiotics.

“It’s an important disease particularly in hospital settings as many patients who have this reoccurring disease respond very well to this transplantation of faeces into their bowel,” Professor Bogaerde said.

“So there is a good theoretical basis of trying this transplantation in patients with UC.

“If you have UC and don’t respond to conventional treatment (antibiotics) then a Faecal Microbiota Transplantation can have surprising results.”

This study first came about by Professor Tom Borody who was subject to much resistance from the medical world, many of whom are now coming around to his way of thinking. Through Wishlist funding, this study could prove to be a medical breakthrough if successful.

“The funding from Wishlist is sufficient for the Nambour study and we are incredibly grateful for the grant,” said Professor Bogaerde.

While there is a long road ahead before the study can be ruled a success or not, there’s at least hope for UC sufferers alike.

Wishlist Research Grant applications are open until 9 June 2015 with $300,000 available to employees of the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service for local research projects.