Engaging Faecal Microbiota Donors
Simon Baunwall & David Pearce + the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood Microbiome Team
Stool (also known as poo) is a product of our digestive system’s microbiome that contains a vast and complex system of good and bad bacteria, known as the faecal microbiota. Stool has incredible lifesaving capabilities when used for Faecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT). During our Week of Talks, Dr. Simon Mark Dahl Baunwall, and David Pearce + the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood Microbiome Team showcased their research on faecal microbiota donation.
Stool donation as a life-saving therapy
Dr Simon Mark Dahl Baunwall
Simon Mark Dahl Baunwall is an MD at Aarhus University Hospital and a PhD graduate at the Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University. Simon’s primary research is in the field of microbiota transplantation and all of the elements surrounding this ranging from donation, to processing and clinical application.
In his recent DoRN Week of Talks presentation, Simon discusses why donor recruitment is vital in securing FMT, and poses the question ‘how do we find people to donate their stool for therapeutic purposes and FMT?’
To access Simon’s free talk, please click on the link below.
Australian Red Cross Lifeblood and microbiota donors
David Pearce + the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood Team
Lifeblood have established a program in Western Australia to provide Fiona Stanley Hospital and Fremantle Hospital with a reliable supply of faecal microbiota for transplant to treat patients suffering from life-threatening C. difficile infection. FMT involves collecting microbiota samples from healthy donors, testing, processing and transplanting it into patients suffering from C. difficile infection. In future, this therapy may also help people with other bowel problems like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, or even play a role treating mental illness.
In his recent DoRN Week of Talks presentation, David discusses how Lifeblood are using over 90 years of experience in the field of biological donations to find new donors for their microbiota programme.
To access David’s free talk, please click on the link below.
Q & As
The DoRN Week of Talks provided a unique opportunity to engage in an easy and convenient Q & A with presenters. Below we have listed the questions that we received for Simon and David + The Australian Red Cross Lifeblood team, along with their answers.
Q&A- Dr. Simon Mark Dahl Baunwall
Based on your experience, do you have any thoughts about what could be done to increase the rates of eligible donors so that more pass through the initial phases of screening (i.e., so that there is less donor deferral)?
We have given this quite some thoughts as the deferral rate was lower among blood donors than we first expected. Due to the precautionary principle applied, we have two broadly defined deferral criteria in allergy and BMI that excludes most of the donors initially. We could investigate the validity of these to increase the donor eligibility substantially
Is it potentially problematic to recruit stool donors from the blood donor pool if over half of blood donors will not make it through the screening process (i.e., is there potential for being deferred from the stool donor registry to impact potential donors’ willingness to donate blood)?
This is an important factor to consider, and yes, the ethics of potentially rendering healthy donors sick by subjecting them to an extensive screening panel mostly calibrated for patients is with some problems. Most of the donors, however, wants to contribute more, and the possibility to donate faeces, which is without spaced quarantine intervals, is a good motivator for many. Because most of the donors is excluded due to allergy and BMI, the donors do mostly not consider it a problem and volunteers to donate if the deferral criteria are lifted. Some blood donors, nevertheless, reports unexpected symptoms that requires action such as bloody stools within the last four weeks. This is quite unexpected because the donors are donating blood or plasma at the time of the recruitment and have stated they feel healthy.
Q&A- David Pearce + the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood Team
Do you think that the idea of contributing to science is a broader motivator that could be harnessed to recruit either specific segments of the population (e.g. older, more highly educated for example) to the blood or plasma panel or donors in general to meet specific demands (anti-D, high Ig donors)?
Yes! We find there are donors or potential donors who are motivated to donate by their interest in contributing to science. In fact, we see this quite a lot in our Lifeblood Teams groups, colleagues and peers from clinical and medical fields often donate in groups when donating blood. Donors contribute to Lifeblood’s extensive Research & Development Program which wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of blood donors.
What are the gaps in knowledge about donor recruitment, retention etc. that you would like to see research address in future?
We still have a lot to learn on the subjects of recruitment and retention – this is a really new area of donation and a very unique donor experience. We will be creating a donor recognition program that will help us understand what motivates a donor to continue donating and to understand why a donor might discontinue donating. This will really help fill that knowledge gap on the lifecycle of a voluntary microbiota donor. Once insights are gathered and interpreted we will design assets and adapt the customer experience to ensure we are meeting our donors’ expectations.
There is strong demand for FMT across Australia and we will make sure that we have the collection network to support this. Right now, our focus is on maximising the collections and supply from our incredible donor centre and processing facility in Perth. The generosity of donors and their willingness to donate frequently is pretty amazing. Saving lives takes guts!
As a national organisation, we will continue to look at how we meet the needs of patients across the country.