Found: magic bullet to kill acute diarrhoea

June 17th, 2008 - 1:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 17 (IANS) The discovery of an inexpensive compound could virtually sound the death knell of diarrhoea, which kills up to 2.5 million children annually in the developing world. The Texas University team that made the discovery described it as a ‘magic bullet’ that would not only save millions of lives in the developing world, but would also save billions of dollars that are lost annually.

The major share of these fatalities is being accounted by enterotoxigenic E coli (ETEC) strains, according to an article in Clinical Microbiology Reviews.

The compound targets acute and virtually untreatable diarrhoea caused by ETEC and other bacteria strains. They produce toxins that stimulate intestinal linings to secrete excessive fluid, said Stanley G. Schultz, member of the Texas team.

During pre-clinical tests, the compound was associated with a significant reduction in intestinal fluid secretion in an animal model of bacterial diarrhoea.

It was also linked to reduced fluid build up during laboratory tests on human colon cells. It caused significant decrease in fluid secretion without apparent toxicity. This unique approach to the treatment of ETEC diarrhoea works by interrupting the diarrhoea-causing chain of events that occur when bacterial toxins enter the intestinal tract.

The compound slows the transmission of information in the epithelial cells lining the intestines. Consequently, molecular mediators regulating the secretion of salt and fluid in the gut do not get fully activated.

“While this research looks extremely promising as a preventive or therapeutic intervention in Third World diarrhoeal disease and travellers’ diarrhoea, much work remains to be done to move into clinical trials and eventual therapeutic approval.” said Ferid Murad, a co-author of the study.

In the event of an earthquake, typhoon or other catastrophe, this potential diarrhoea treatment could be used to treat ETEC outbreaks caused by faeces contaminated food and water supplies, Murad said. The compound can be placed in a pill for adults and in a liquid for children.

The results of pre-clinical tests appeared in Monday online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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