Faecal transplants are the latest new treatment option being trialled in people living with Parkinson’s to help manage their symptoms by replenishing their healthy gut bacteria.
The trial is the result of a collaboration between Australian biotechnology company BiomeBank; the Departments of Neurology, Nuclear Medicine and Gastroenterology at the Royal Adelaide and Queen Elizabeth hospitals; and, The Hospital Research Foundation (THRF) Group.
There has been increasing evidence showing the link between Parkinson’s and gut health. Constipation affects 90 per cent of people living with Parkinson’s. Recent research has indicated the microbiome within the gut may influence the response to existing therapies for the disease.
BiomeBank is world-leading for its cutting-edge science, innovative technologies and drug manufacturing capabilities, developing microbial therapies with the potential to offer world-first treatments for a number of diseases.
The company’s first drug product is already being used throughout Australia to treat the debilitating gut condition Clostridioides difficile (C-diff) through faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT).
“Constipation is a common problem for many people with Parkinson’s and has a wider impact on the person’s health and wellbeing,” saod Dr Robert Bryant, co-founder and VP of Translational Medicine at BiomeBank and gastroenterologist at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
“The aim of this trial is to meet an unmet medical need, exploring whether our microbial therapy is safe and tolerable in people with Parkinson’s disease. The study will also provide some preliminary information on whether FMT might improve motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s including constipation. Results of this pilot study will inform the design of future larger studies.
“This is an interventional clinical study which is an important first step for microbial drug development, placing Adelaide on the map globally for this innovative patient-driven research and drug discovery.
“In an exciting SA-first, the biological impact of FMT on these patients will also be assessed. The trial is being led by Associate Professor Thomas Kimber, neurologist at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, who is integrating dopamine scans which monitors the brain for abnormalities.”
Cassandra Hewett lives with Young Onset Parkinson’s and hopes to benefit from the study. She says her chronic constipation is “painful” and “the source of so much discomfort”.
“I’m a person that does all the things that I’m supposed to in order to help such as a special diet, exercise, make sure I drink lots of water – but nothing helps,” she said. “I’m hoping this research will change my life.”
Adelaide businessman Kevin Weeks is financially backing the trial through The Hospital Research Foundation Group. Living with Parkinson’s himself and on the Board of THRF Group charity Parkinson’s SA, he knows how living with the daily symptoms of Parkinson’s can affect people’s quality of life.
“Gut health has been linked to so many conditions and it is exciting that a South Australian company might improve our understanding of this connection,” said Mr Weeks.
“I’m funding this trial because I want to back research that produces immediate improvements for people living with Parkinson’s.”