Laboratory Research

Current Objectives:

1. Intestinal microbiota and health

We ask epidemiologic questions about how communities of microorganisms that normally live within us (commensal bacteria) are involved in the development and maintenance of health. We focus on the intestinal microbiota. Our laboratory uses next generation sequencing technologies to learn about the function of the microbiota.

1.1 Clostridium difficile

Clostridium difficile is the most common cause of hospital-acquired infectious diarrhea. Antimicrobial use is a major risk factor, as it suppresses the normal intestinal microbiota, and allows C. difficile to infect the gut. We are conducting comparative metagenomic analyses to investigate the relationship between antimicrobial use, intestinal microbiota alterations and C. difficile colonization and disease in hospitalized patients.

1.2 Sanitation, malnutrition, and child health in Zimbabwe

Under-nutrition causes one-third of child mortality under the age of 5 years. We are working with our global partner ZVITAMBO and the SHINE Trial in Zimbabwe to understand how the intestinal microbiota may contribute to infant growth faltering.

1.3 Fecal microbiota transplantation for decolonization of multidrug-resistant pathogenic Enterobacteriaceae

Bacterial infections are the most common type of infections following solid organ transplantation. Renal transplant patients are at special risk for chronic, recurrent, multidrug-resistant extraintestinal infections (urinary tract, kidney and bloodstream infections) in the year following their organ transplant. We are testing whether FMT will decolonize and reconstitute the microbiota of renal transplant patients at-risk of developing a MDR infection following organ transplantation, thereby preventing difficult to treat post-transplant infections.

This research is supported by the Transplant Research Foundation of British Columbia, Venture Award.


2. Food safety and extraintestinal (non-diarrheal) Escherichia coli

Our laboratory studies food safety related to extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli. We are currently working with the Public Health Agency of Canada, Laboratory for Foodborne Zoonoses and the Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance to examine the relationship between the foodborne transmission of antimicrobial resistant Escherichia coli and the development of community-acquired extraintestinal infections (e.g., urinary tract and bloodstream infections).