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Canada’s first pediatric stool bank opens at Hamilton children’s hospital

McMaster Children’s Hospital wants your kids’ poop — so they can add it to their collection of frozen stool and use it to help other children.

The frozen collection of children's poop can help kids with gut infections like C. diff

A girl sitting.

McMaster Children's Hospital wants your kids' poop — so they can add it to their collection of frozen stool and use it to help other children.

Their stool bank for kids is the only one in Canada, according to Dr. Nikhil Pai, pediatric gastroenterologist at the hospital in Hamilton.

"We're really proud of that because we feel we're providing a service for children across the country," he said in a phone interview.

The hospital opened it to offer fecal transplants to children across Canada with gut infections like Clostridium difficile, also called C. diff.

That infection is when a bacteria gets in the large intestine, which can cause diarrhea and fevers. The infection can start while someone is on antibiotics for a different illness.

But Pai said there's a fix.

He can take healthy bacteria from a donor's stool and transplant it into patients through a five-minute enema, so the healthy bacteria can outcompete C. diff and eliminate the stubborn bacteria for good.

Stool bank was 'life-changing' for one family

Tanya Gillis told CBC Hamilton the stool bank has been "life-changing" for her nine-year-old daughter, Kayleah Atkins.

When Atkins was born, she seemed perfectly healthy. Five weeks later, she had her first seizure.

"Through that, we learned she had a rare genetic disorder," Gillis said in a phone interview from her home in Millville, N.S.

The disorder is CDKL5, a neurodevelopmental condition with a range of symptoms including low muscle tone, and developmental challenges, according to Boston Children's Hospital.

Gillis said her daughter is non-verbal, non-mobile and also deals with gastrointestinal issues.

In 2020, Atkins developed C. diff., which was recurring for 14 months.

"Nothing was making her feel any better … she had zero quality of life," Gillis said. "She just would cry or be uncomfortable all day … it is heartbreaking."

Then Gillis heard about McMaster Children's Hospital and its new stockpile of childrens' poop.

Gillis and Atkins flew from Nova Scotia to Hamilton to do a fecal transplant.

Atkins was the program's first patient. After the procedure, Gillis said her daughter became a "new kid."

For everything else we've had to do up to that point … to see how easy [the transplant] was, and how it worked, was insane," she said.

Hospital looking for donors

Gillis said she hopes other pediatric stool banks will open up across the country.

Pai said barriers to having stool banks and fecal transplants for kids include a lack of dedicated pediatric programming, a lack of stool samples from kids and the pandemic, which shut down some adult programs.

Pai also said he is trying to develop the fecal transplants in the form of a tablet so patients don't need to travel to the hospital.

In the meantime, Pai said there are 30 stool samples in the bank right now, but the hospital wants more.

Any healthy person between five to 18-years-old can donate and they'll be compensated for doing so.

One donation of stool can make between five and 10 treatments.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bobby Hristova

Reporter

Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.

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