Potential E. coli treatment developed 10 years ago

E. coli treatment ignored, but developed a decade ago

Scientists from the University of Adelaide say they developed a possible treatment that could stop deadly E. coli in its tracks a decade ago that never went to clinical trial because of lack of interest from commercial sectors.

The scientists produced a probiotic that binds to E. coli and was shown to protect mice from the harmful effects of toxins produced by E. coli that is claiming lives in Europe.

E. coli can shut down the kidneys and attack blood vessels, leading to severe illness and death. Researchers Dr Adrienne Paton, Associate Professor Renato Morona and Professor James Paton infected mice with virulent strains of E. coli in 2000.

The researchers published their findings that the mice were completely protected from fatal doses of toxins that produce gastrointestinal disease in journal Nature Medicinebut no further studies were developed.

The researchers say if the probiotic had gotten the attention of investors, and proved effective in humans, lives could have been saved from the current outbreak of E. coli in addition to millions of dollars in health care costs.

Professor Paton, Director, Research Centre for Infectious Diseases at the University of Adelaide says, “The probiotic bacterium could be produced cheaply on a large scale. 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 forward into clinical trials.

The probiotic is harmless and binds to receptors in E. coli and dysentery toxins produced by the Shigella bacterium.

“Severe E. coli food poisoning outbreaks such as that currently occurring in Europe are becoming increasingly common,” said Professor Paton, Director, Research Centre for Infectious Diseases at the University of Adelaide.

Antibiotics are ineffective against deadly E. coli because they can increase the amount of toxins produced by the bacteria in the gut.

The type of probiotic engineered a decade ago that could potentially treat deadly E. coli early in the course of the disease, according to researchers, could be developed inexpensively, is recognized by the medical and scientific community, but never garnered attention from the commercial sector and never went to human clinical trials.