SMHS Biobank Enables World-Leading Biospecimen Research to Improve Critical Care Outcomes

FSH ICU Registered Nurse Catarina Wylde, FSH ICU Registered Nurse Nicholas Anthony, FSH ICU Registrar Dr Tess Evans, and SMHS Biobank Research Officer, Sheeraz Mohd. (Photo credit: South Metropolitan Health Service)
FSH ICU Registered Nurse Catarina Wylde, FSH ICU Registered Nurse Nicholas Anthony, FSH ICU Registrar Dr Tess Evans, and SMHS Biobank Research Officer, Sheeraz Mohd. (Photo credit: South Metropolitan Health Service)
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The newly established South Metropolitan Health Service (SMHS) Biobank, which is a high-quality biospecimens sample processing and storage service, has expanded the range of biospecimens available for research purposes, including blood, body tissue, and faecal matter. This now enables researchers working for the SMHS Biobank to have access to a more extensive range of biospecimens for their studies.

The biobank, which is the only one of its kind in Western Australia (WA) Health, supports researchers by handling and preserving up to 20,000 samples at a temperature of -80 degrees Celsius. By keeping samples at such a low temperature, the biobank can ensure that the integrity of specimens, like red blood cells, remains intact for a period of 10 years.

The SMHS Biobank is being used for research purposes, specifically for the ICU Prospective Observational Embedded Microbiome Study (POEMS), which is one of the initial SMHS research projects currently in progress.

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The primary objective of POEMS is to gain insights into the alterations in the gut microbiome of critically ill patients by analyzing faecal samples obtained from the intensive care unit (ICU) patients at Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH). By examining changes in the gut bacteria, POEMS aims to identify the impact on patients and facilitate the early detection of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Moreover, this study could potentially pave the way for identifying novel treatments for critically ill patients in the ICU.

Professor Edward Litton, who is an Intensivist Professor at FSH ICU, and Dr. Tess Evans, a Registrar at FSH ICU, are jointly leading the POEMS study. Ed stated that the utilization of the biobank will enable SMHS research to enhance the results for the most severely ill patients across healthcare systems around the world.

“Findings from previous studies investigating the gut microbiome of critically ill patients have been uncertain due to small numbers of samples,” Edward Litton said.

“Thanks to the biobank, the POEMS research will include a world-leading sample size and enable a more robust clinical finding than ever before. ICU patients are highly vulnerable and despite rapid advancements in healthcare in recent years, we still urgently need new ways to provide timely diagnosis, prognosis and targeted treatment for critically ill patients – POEMS will help achieve this.” Ed added.

One of the research studies that the biobank is currently testing is POEMS, according to Sheeraz Mohd, who is the Research Officer for SMHS Biobank.

“The biobank enables SMHS to undertake research with world-leading sample sizes and cutting-edge analytics. These studies are the first of many, marking SMHS’s improved capacity to undertake more industry-leading research than ever, which will help improve patient outcomes for both our community and globally.” Sheeraz said.

The SMHS Biobank operates in collaboration with PathWest and is situated at the Fiona Stanley Hospital campus within the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research.