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Yingfu Li Receives Major Grant to Combat Deadly Strain of C. difficile

Dr. Yingfu Li

Congratulations to Yingfu Li, IIDR member and Biochemistry & Biomedical Sciences professor at McMaster University, who was recently awarded with a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Operating Grant in the Antimicrobial Resistance Competition.

Li will receive $300K over two years from CIHR to develop a rapid point-of-care diagnostic test to identify NAP1, one of the deadliest hypervirulent strains of Clostridium difficile (C. difficile).

This is the second major award this year for Li who also secured $672,000 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC) this past February to develop a novel litmus paper-like sensor device to enable rapid and accurate detection of Legionella pneumophila – a deadly environmental pathogen.

difficile is a bacterium that causes infectious diarrhea and commonly affects older adults in healthcare settings. In Canada, there has been a five-fold increase in deaths directly related to C. difficile over the last decade.

NAP1 is known for more resistance to antibiotics and higher toxin production. It has been associated with an acute clinical response and a three-fold increase in death rates within 30 days of infection. The emergence of NAP1 calls for better C. difficile infection management strategies, including a simple and reliable method to detect and monitor infections specifically caused by NAP1.

“Currently, there are no commercially available products to be used as a point-of-care test for NAP1,” said Li. “The ability to accurately and quickly diagnose an incoming patient with NAP1 is immensely critical and completely alters the treatment strategy.”

Li’s point-of-care technology uses a novel DNAzyme-based technology and the classic litmus test.

“The unmatched advantage of this simple, instrument-free test is that it is faster to perform and easier to use,” explained Li. “It is capable of detecting NAP1 non-invasively using stool samples with excellent sensitivity and rapid turn-around time.”

“Unlike other diagnostic methods, manual extraction of nucleic acids or protein biomarkers is not required and minimal sample processing results in a straightforward test.”

The test will help healthcare providers determine the most effective treatment strategy quickly and efficiently, which will ultimately save lives and reduce patient care costs.

Li will collaborate with a team of clinical and academic researchers on the project including; Andrew McArthur, fellow IIDR member and Biochemistry & Biomedical Sciences professor; Dr. Bruno Salena, Medicine professor; and Dr. Christine Lee, Pathology and Molecular Medicine professor.

“Our point-of-care technology will be partnered with epidemiological database tools and on demand genome sequencing-based epidemic strain detection, antimicrobial resistance gene screening, and toxin gene identification,” said Li.

“The project will benefit Canadian industry and will impact the health and well being of Canadians and people around the world,” stated Li. “Furthermore, this project will provide a great opportunity for training several young scientists who will be able to interact with experienced academic and industrial innovators on a regular basis.”