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MSU veterinary researcher develops human vaccine for E.coli

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Apr 17, 2009
By dvm360.com staff
East Lansing, Mich. -- A researcher with Michigan State University's College of Veterinary Medicine and Human Medicine has developed a working vaccine for enterotoxigenic E. coli, which is responsible for 60 percent to 70 percent of all E. coli diarrheal disease.

A. Mahdi Saeed, a professor of epidemiology and infectious disease, has applied for a patent for his discovery and has made contact with pharmaceutical companies for commercial production.

"This strain of E. coli is an international health challenge that has a huge impact on humanity," says Saeed, who has spent four years developing the vaccine at MSU's National Food Safety and Toxicology Center. "By creating a vaccine, we can save untold lives. The implications are massive."

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 hopes human clinical trials could begin late in the year.

The vaccine also may have other uses, such as being administered to patients after surgery to act as a laxative following anesthesia and treating E. coli in newborn food animals, which in the United States alone causes $300 million in loss of agricultural products each year.

Saeed's work was funded in part by a $510,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health.