Research Interest

Dr. Petrof's research interests focus on probiotics, microbial-epithelial cell interactions in the gut, and the effects of intestinal bacteria on inflammation. Her lab is interested in the study of commensal bacteria, probiotics and the products they synthesize to inhibit inflammation and various forms of colitis, and in understanding their mechanisms of action. These investigations will ultimately result in a better understanding of the protective role of commensal gut flora under conditions of inflammation and stress, and lead to novel microbe-based treatment modalities for the management of inflammatory intestinal diseases.

Ongoing projects in the laboratory revolve around this long-term goal. There are several disease states of intestinal inflammation in which the Petrof lab has an interest, including infectious colitis from Clostridium difficile, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a form of colitis whose etiology is poorly understood, and infectious colitis from Salmonella (i.e. food poisoning). Different models which represent these different disease states are used in the laboratory to further investigate the protective effects of commensal bacteria under these different conditions. Other areas of interest include necrotizing enterocolitis, an inflammatory colitis of prematurity, and characterization of the gut microbiota.

The current research is to develop and optimize a synthetic fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) technology concept. Different from the existing FMT approaches to repopulate the gut, the Petrof Lab is developing defined communities of purified intestinal bacterial cultures from a single healthy donor. Specifically, through novel approaches of rational design based on ecosystem function, they are developing optimized microbial ecosystem therapeutics to protect against CDI, that will balance the need for ecological robustness and clinical efficacy against the need for ecosystem simplicity, from a manufacturing and regulatory point of view.

As an Infectious Diseases attending physician at Kingston General Hospital (KGH), Dr. Petrof sees inpatients with recurrent C.difficile infection (rCDI) on the inpatient ID consult service as well as in her C. difficile outpatient clinic. In collaboration with the Gastroenterology staff and GIDRU, they have overseen the fecal transplant procedures performed at KGH since 2009. The Petrof Lab have begun investigating mechanisms of action of these bacterial populations in the laboratory. They are currently studying the effects of microbial communities in both a C.difficile and a Salmonella antibiotic mouse model of colitis. In addition, Dr. Petrof and Dr. Allen-Vercoe received funding to pursue a translational study to develop a complex mixture of intestinal bacteria derived from human donors to treat patients with refractory rCDI, to replace the use of stool transplants. They have already successfully cured recurrent CDI patients with our “synthetic stool” mixture.