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Contacts: Eileen Quinn for PATH, 202.454.5005, equinn@path.org; Karen Buckelew for the University of Maryland School of Medicine Media Relations, 410.706.7590, kbuckelew@som.umaryland.edu.

Research will explore new approach against enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC)

Baltimore and Seattle, March 26, 2010—The International Enteric Vaccine Consortium (EntVac) and PATH have announced a new partnership for early-stage research into a vaccine concept against one of the leading bacterial causes of diarrheal disease, enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC). PATH will fund EntVac, a consortium of universities anchored by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, to pursue preclinical proof of concept of a stable toxin (ST) toxoid vaccine. Such a vaccine offers the prospect of broad protection against ETEC, but requires additional research and evaluation. PATH will provide funding of $1.1 million over 2.5 years for the research effort.

Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death in children under the age of five, killing more than 1.8 million children each year. ETEC is responsible for up to 840 million infections and approximately 400,000 deaths worldwide each year, mostly in children in developing countries. ETEC may be the first enteric illness encountered by many infants, and it is also the most common cause of diarrhea among travelers and the military when visiting high-risk regions like Asia and Africa.

Unsafe water sources and lack of adequate sanitation increase the risk of contracting ETEC, which is primarily spread through food or water contaminated by human waste. As a result, the incidence of ETEC is highest in the developing world. Because access to appropriate medical care is limited in these areas and antimicrobial resistance to antibiotics is common and increasing, prevention through vaccination is a critical strategy to reducing ETEC illness, but there are currently no licensed vaccines against ETEC available.

Epidemiologic studies strongly suggest that ETEC strains that release ST contribute significantly to disease burden, causing the most common and most serious infections. While exposure to other ETEC strains can lead to immunity, children can experience many symptomatic infections with an ST-producing strain. “The ability to induce protective antibodies to ST could be an important public health goal, but it has heretofore proved elusive,” noted Dr. James P. Nataro, MD, PhD, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Center for Vaccine Development and the leader of EntVac. “We look forward to working with PATH to identify one or more ST clones that are safe and immunogenic.”

“We are pleased to work with the EntVac consortium to further explore the potential of a ST toxoid ETEC vaccine,” commented Dr. Richard Walker, director of PATH’s Enteric Vaccine Initiative. “Improving our understanding of this critical aspect of ETEC infections will help advance PATH’s work in developing vaccines to prevent enteric infections among children in the developing world.”

The research will be conducted at the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Center for Vaccine Development, the University of Bergen, the University of South Dakota, and Tulane University. The Research Council of Norway is also funding the EntVac consortium for this research project.

About EntVac

EntVac is an international nonprofit consortium of scientists representing multiple institutions on three continents. The consortium is directed by Dr. James Nataro of the Center for Vaccine Development, UMB, and Dr. Halvor Sommerfelt of the Center for International Health, University of Bergen, Norway. The EntVac investigators are committed to breaking down the traditional barriers that impede collaboration and thereby provide powerful multidisciplinary synergies.

About PATH

PATH is an international nonprofit organization that creates sustainable, culturally relevant solutions, enabling communities worldwide to break longstanding cycles of poor health. By collaborating with diverse public- and private-sector partners, PATH helps provide appropriate health technologies and vital strategies that change the way people think and act. PATH’s work improves global health and well-being.

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine

The University of Maryland School of Medicine, located on the University of Maryland’s Baltimore campus, works closely with the University of Maryland Medical Center to provide the best medical education, biomedical research, and patient care to Maryland and beyond. The School’s Center for Vaccine Development (CVD) is engaged in the full range of vaccinology, from basic science through vaccine development, clinical evaluation, and field studies. The CVD includes an international staff of molecular biologists, immunologists, internists, pediatricians, epidemiologists, biostatisticians, and entomologists. In addition to its research and outpatient facilities in Baltimore and College Park, Maryland, the center conducts clinical studies in Mali, West Africa; Malawi, Southern Africa; and in Santiago, Chile; among other sites.