A potential life-saving treatment for severe E. coli food poisoning outbreaks developed more than a decade ago hasn’t gone forward into clinical trials because of lack of commercial interest.
University of Adelaide researchers produced a “designer” probiotic bacterium that binds and neutralizes the toxin produced by E. coli, which causes life-threatening attack on the kidneys and blood vessels.
The scientists—Adrienne Paton, MD, Renato Morona, associate professor, and James Paton, professor—showed that mice infected with a highly virulent strain of E. coli were protected by the probiotic bacterium.
The research generated ongoing interest from the scientific and medical community, but the commercial sector hasn’t taken up its development for progress into clinical trials in humans. “Severe E. coli food poisoning outbreaks such as that currently occurring in Europe are becoming increasingly common,” says Paton, director, Research Center for Infectious Diseases in the school of molecular and biomedical science.
“They have the potential to cause widespread disease and many patients develop life-threatening complications including kidney failure,” he adds. The probiotic bacterium could be produced cheaply, however, in spite of on-going attention from the scientific and medical community; there has been a lack of interest from the commercial sector in taking this product into clinical trials.
“If this had been done, and the probiotic had been proven to be safe and efficacious in humans, it could have been deployed during the current European outbreak. This would undoubtedly have saved lives, as well as millions of dollars in current and future health care costs.”
The researchers engineered a harmless bacterium to mimic binding receptors for the potentially fatal Shiga toxin on its surface.Paton says after diagnosis of E. coli infection there was a window of opportunity for therapeutic intervention before kidneys started to fail. Antibiotics are not used because they can increase the amount of toxin released in the gut.
The research was published in Nature Medicine.
Release Date: June 7, 2011
Source: University of Adelaide
Filed Under: Drug Discovery