About the project
Every year 10 out of the 60 million people traveling to developing countries will contract diarrhea due to enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC). This constitutes 50% of the traveler's diarrhea cases. For adults, ETEC infection is usually not life threatening and rarely causes hospitalization, but diarrheal episodes due to ETEC translate every year into billions of dollars in medical cost and lost productivity. The number or travelers to developing countries is estimated to triple by 2020.
For children under five years of age in developing countries the situation is even more severe: Annually diarrhea kills 700,000 children making it the second-leading cause of childhood deaths in developing countries, and ETEC is one of the leading causes of childhood diarrhea. In addition, those who survive acute episodes often suffer from severe malnutrition, growth stunting and cognitive defects.
ETEC causes diarrhea through the heat-labile (LT) and/or heat-stable (ST) toxins, and ST-producing ETEC are among the top pathogens causing moderate to severe diarrhea. Despite extensive research worldwide an effective ETEC vaccine is still not available. Currently available prototype ETEC vaccines target colonization factors and LT, but not ST. So far research groups and industry have failed to develop an ST-based vaccine. Our research group has identified vaccine candidate ST variants which may contribute to revolutionizing preventive measures to overcome ETEC diarrhea. The vaccine can potentially save the lives of tens of thousands of children and billions of dollars in lost productivity, medical and non-medical costs associated with traveler's diarrhea annually. Our major customer groups will be travelers to ETEC-endemic regions and military personnel deployed to such areas. Based on a tiered pricing model, the vaccine willalso be made available to populations of developing countries.