MSU researcher develops vaccine for E. coli
diarrheal diseases that kill up to 3 million children annually
of Article: http://news.msu.edu/story/6181/
Published: April 14, 2009
EAST LANSING, Mich. — A Michigan State University researcher has
developed a working vaccine for a strain of E. coli that kills 2 million
to 3 million children each year in the developing world.
Enterotoxigenic E. Coli, which is responsible for 60 percent to 70
percent of all E. coli diarrheal disease, also causes health problems for
U.S. troops serving overseas and is responsible for what is commonly
called traveler’s diarrhea.
A. Mahdi Saeed, professor of epidemiology and infectious disease in
MSU’s colleges of Veterinary Medicine and Human Medicine, has applied for
a patent for his discovery and has made contact with pharmaceutical
companies for commercial production. Negotiations with several firms are
“This strain of E. coli is an international health challenge that has
a huge impact on humanity,” said Saeed, who has devoted four years to
develop a working vaccine at MSU’s National Food Safety and Toxicology
Center. “By creating a vaccine, we can save untold lives. The
implications are massive.”
ETEC affects millions of adults and children across the globe, mainly
in southern hemisphere countries throughout Africa and South America. It
also poses a risk to U.S. troops serving in southern Asia and the Middle
Saeed’s breakthrough was discovering a way to overcome the miniscule
molecular size of one of the illness-inducing toxins produced by the E.
coli bug. Since the toxin was so small, it did not prompt the body’s
defense system to develop immunity, allowing the same individual to repeatedly
get sick, often with more severe health implications.
Saeed created a biological carrier to attach to the toxin that once
introduced into the body induces a strong immune response. This was done
by mapping the toxin’s biology and structure during the design of the
vaccine. Saeed’s work was funded in part by a $510,000 grant from the
National Institutes of Health.
After creating the carrier in a lab at MSU, Saeed and his team tested
it on mice and found the biological activity of the toxin was enhanced by
more than 40 percent, leading to its recognition by the body’s immune
system. After immunizing a group of 10 rabbits, the vaccine led to the
production of the highest neutralizing antibody ever reported for this
type of the toxin.
Saeed hopes that human clinical trials could begin late in the year.
There also are several other human health implications for the vaccine,
besides providing immunity against most E. coli disease, according to
Saeed. Many patients who undergo anesthesia during a medical procedure
surgery suffer from post-operative paralytic ileus, or an inability to
have a bowel movement. A small oral dosage of the vaccine could act as a
laxative, which often aren’t prescribed after a surgery for fear of side
effects, Saeed said. A small dose also could help with urinary retention.
The vaccine will be available for animals as well, Saeed added. He
pointed out the E. coli bug also is a major cause of sickness and death
for newborn animals such as calves and piglets, which in the United
States alone causes $300 million in loss of agricultural products each