In honor of C. diff month, we wanted to shine a light on exciting and promising new efforts to reduce the incidence of C. diff. These organizations are tackling C. diff infections either through prevention, diagnosis, or innovative treatment methods.
Pew Trust’s AMR SPARK Initiative
Pew Trust’s The Antibiotic Resistant Project has been producing well-researched reports on the antibiotic resistance problem, starting lobbying efforts with Supermoms Against Superbugs, and mostly recently created an open-access software for researchers to share their findings about resistant pathogens, titled Shared Platform for Antibiotic Research and Knowledge (SPARK). By expanding the pool of shared knowledge on resistant bacteria, SPARK aims to drive prevention and research efforts forward.
With its funny name evocative of both GOT and poo, it’s catchy already, but this game is really doing good for C. diff by educating healthcare providers on how to identify symptoms of C. diff early. Their own mission statement: “The Clostridium difficile board game designed to help healthcare professionals improve their knowledge of C. difficile and contribute to the prevention and management of infection.” It’s been so successful the inventor has expanded to other games to help expand Infection Prevention knowledge!
Pfizer is targeting C. diff before it happens, with a vaccine in clinical human trials right now. This vaccine would be given to patients at a high risk of getting C. diff, and works by teaching the body to launch an immune response that specifically targets the toxins produced by C. diff. Neutralizing those toxins would effectively prevent symptoms of C. diff. We’re happy to hear it’s going well, after Sanofi’s attempts to build a similar vaccine was disappointingly discontinued.
DaVolterra is attacking a treat-or-not conundrum unique to C.diff. For some patients who previously had C.diff, a prescription of antibiotics might be necessary for another problem (example: pneumonia) but they and their physicians rightly fear that getting the treatment they need will lead to a relapse. DaVolterra’s approach to this challenge is completely unique: their medicine would be able to block to effects of antibiotics just in the gut, so that the antibiotics can safely treat the patient without igniting a relapse into painful C.diff infections.
CARB-X, or Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria, is a large consortium of funders, partners, and accelerators all working toward a common purpose: solving antibacterial resistance through research and the funding of promising ventures aimed at AMR. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one funder. Vedanta Biosciences and SciBac are both partner ventures, with SciBac creating a live biotherapy with three hybrid microorganisms that aim to “kill C.difficile, stop its colonization of the colon, neutralize its toxins, and prevent spore formation.”
Diagnosis is one area of research critical to improving C. diff patient outcomes. It’s incredibly important that we make strides in this area because C. diff is often initiated or exacerbated by the treatment of antibiotics. Some patients are colonized with C. diff, but not sick from it. If a test for C. diff incorrectly indicates that the patient needs treatment, but they don’t actually have C. diff infection, receipt of the antibiotics could cause C. diff infection to develop. This happens often in cancer treatment, since many chemotherapies cause symptoms similar to C. diff infection. Adding to the complexity are newer strains known to be hyper-virulent, thus a need to identify when those strains are present. Luminex, Cepheid, and Quidel are all making strong contributions in this area.
This nonprofit stool bank is making fecal transplants safe and easy for patients everywhere. Its founders watched a family member endure 7 rounds of Vancomycin antibiotic treatment for C. diff before a fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) saved their life. Now, they are making FMT “easier, cheaper, safer and more widely available. We do so by providing hospitals with screened, frozen material ready for clinical use. This service eliminates the time, staff, protocols, and facilities needed to screen and prepare material from new donors for each treatment.” They’ve partnered with Finch Therapeutics to get FMT through FDA approval so it can be used easily by any physician treating a patient with C. diff infection.
In the same goal of restoring gut microbiome health, Vedanta Bioscience’s platform identifies the full range of helpful gut bacteria and amplifies it for use in targeted drug treatments that include C. diff and protecting the intestine against other infectious pathogens, but may extend to regulating or improving autoimmune diseases, cancer, and more. Also in clinical testing, Vedanta doesn’t rely on donor product, but manufactures its microbiome medication.
AmpliPhi Biosciences wants to use bacteriophages, the viruses that hunt bacteria, to treat C. difficile and many other dangerous HAIs. Using these cool, natural predators to hunt, infect, and lyse (or burst open) bacteria is both a break through and a throw back, as bacteriophages have been used for centuries (yeah, no joke!) to fight infections.
Seres aims to treat recurrent C. difficile infections with a targeted treatment in the form of orally ingested pills to restore normal gut microbiome balance. Their lead Phase 3 development candidate, SER-109, received FDA designations of Breakthrough Therapy and Orphan Drug.