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Patch to help 'Delhi belly'

16th June 2008

A clinical trial by corporate researchers in the United States has found a new vaccine for diarrhoea caused by E coli to be safe and 75% effective.

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The patch, impregnated by toxins produced by the E coli bacterium, can help protect travellers against stomach bugs picked up overseas.

Published in the The Lancet, the study found the patch was 75% effective against diarrhoea attacks caused by E coli among volunteers, while patch-wearers who did fall ill recovered far more quickly.

Travel medicine experts welcomed the news, saying that stomach upsets are commonplace among people travelling to certain parts of the world, and the symptoms - vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps, can often leave people incapacitated or weak for days.

Industry figures estimate the number of people affected at 27 million per year worldwide.

But experts also said that the public should remember that only 40% of cases of "Delhi belly" were actually caused by E coli.

The study authors developed the patch through their Maryland-based biotech company IOMAI.

The patch contains the poisons produced by E coli, aimed at educating the immune system to cope better when confronted with the real thing.

In the trial, 178 travellers to Guatemala or Mexico were given either a placebo 'dummy' patch, or one containing the toxin, before continuing their journey.

Of those in the placebo group, a fifth developed moderate diarrhoea, four times more than in the treated group. The difference was even more pronounced in cases of severe diarrhoea.

The patch's developers said that even when someone with an E coli patch fell ill, they got better quicker - half a day compared with two days on average.

The study, they say, suggests that transcutaneous immunisation with LT in a patch could protect travellers against a common, debilitating ailment.

 

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