Sarah Morin

Supervisor: Linda Chui

Project: Can Clostirdioides difficile bacterial load in fecal samples determine its role in children?


Edmonton, AB

Degree program:

Bachelor of Science General

What do you get to work on throughout your studentship?

I am involved in every step of my project, from organizing specimens to extracting DNA to quantifying C. difficile toxin genes. I have the opportunity to use a wide array of research techniques such as quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), easyMag total nucleic acid extraction, C Diff Quik Chek Complete toxin assay and capillary electrophoresis. I love the hands-on aspects of my project and am very excited to be handling real clinical samples and analyzing patient data.

How has your studentship helped you towards your career aspirations?

Given the project's relevance to infectious disease and children, this is an invaluable experience in preparation for a prospective career in medicine, especially since my dream is to become a pediatrician. The depth and breadth of this project in genetics, microbiology and human pathology has equipped me with practical skills and knowledge that will prove useful as I continue in the field of medical research and healthcare. Thanks to the help of other lab members, I feel that I've learned more from this one project than from any single course in undergrad! Overall, I believe I've gained a better understanding of healthcare and research, which has helped confirm my desire to work in medicine.

Lay abstract:

Clostridioides difficile infection (CDI) is primarily characterized by loose stool induced by toxins released from C. difficile that colonize the large intestine. The increasing prevalence and morbidity of this disease raises concerns, particularly in acute or extended care hospitals where organisms may spread easily—leading to outbreaks. Interestingly, a study on children with diarrhea conducted by the Alberta Provincial Pediatric EnTeric Infection TEam (APPETITE) detected C. difficile in both sick and healthy children below the age of two. This suggests the presence of C. difficile in the gut does not necessarily lead to symptoms of CDI in this age group, making it difficult to give a CDI diagnosis. My project's objective is to determine whether bacterial load (measurable quantity of bacteria) and molecular identities are correlated to symptoms of CDI. This information will be analyzed alongside corresponding clinical data and will help lead to a better understanding of C. difficile colonization in younger children.