Monash University and medicines development team up to tackle gut infections

February 13, 2014

The Department of Microbiology at Monash University and Medicines Development Limited, one of Australia’s specialist providers of development management services for the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, are joining forces to assess a new treatment for Clostridium difficile disease.

Infection with the bacterium Clostridium difficile is one of the world’s most significant gut infections and the biggest cause of hospital-acquired diarrhoea globally. In the USA alone, it causes more than 500,000 illnesses per year.

Associate Professor Dena Lyras of Monash University and Dr Danielle Smith from Medicines Development will collaborate to investigate a new drug combination to treat and prevent Clostridium difficile disease in preclinical models.

Clostridium difficile infections affect vulnerable hospital patients whose healthy gut bacteria have been killed after treatment with antibiotics. Clostridium difficile bacteria take up residence in the patient’s compromised intestine and cause symptoms ranging from mild diarrhoea to life-threatening colitis. These bacteria also produce long-lasting packages of infectious material called spores, which can persist in the patient’s gut and trigger a relapse of disease. Spores are also released from the infected patient into the environment, leading to transmission of Clostridium difficile to other, uninfected patients.

Current treatments for Clostridium difficile disease, however, are limited and none are effective against the spore form of the germ. In fact, some treatments for Clostridium difficile disease appear to enhance production of spores.

For this reason, the VIIN Industry Alliance-sponsored collaboration between Monash University and Medicines Development will begin preclinical evaluation of a new drug therapy against Clostridium difficile with the aim of reducing spore production and thus, the risk of disease relapse and transmission.

In a well-established model of Clostridium difficile disease, A/Prof Lyras will examine the co-administration of the current “gold-standard” drug treatment for Clostridium with a newly identified compound that inhibits spore production. Experimental findings will inform the commercialisation plans for the new drug therapy.

The global market opportunity for treatments for Clostridium difficile disease is expected to be over USD 0.5 billion by 2019.

We look forward to these first steps for Monash University and Medicines Development to develop a treatment for both for the benefit of people affected by this disease and to return health and economic benefits to the State of Victoria.