The most prolific infectious diseases are often the ones that hit a variety of populations.

One of the biggest enemies for military members is also the second leading cause of death for children under the age of five: diarrheal disease. This includes travelers’ diarrhea, which strikes 30-70 percent of travelers, depending on the destination and season of travel.

Photo of Mark Orr, Ph.D.
Mark Orr, Ph.D., who serves as the ETEC Project Leader for IDRI, is heading efforts to develop a vaccine for the leading bacterial cause of diarrheal disease.

Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC), one of the leading bacterial causes of diarrheal disease and the most common cause of travelers’ diarrhea, currently has no licensed vaccine. But that could change. IDRI’s adjuvant technology is being used to develop a vaccine to combat ETEC.

This marks the first scientific project under the Global Health Vaccine Center of Innovation (GHVCI)   – a collaboration formed in 2015 among IDRI, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Sanofi Pasteur. By working together, these collaborators are focused on accelerating the development of vaccines and associated technologies to fight a wide range of global infectious diseases, and ensuring that these critical vaccines are accessible globally, especially to people in need within developing countries. In addition to the three GHVCI collaborators, PATH and the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC) are also lending their expertise to the quest for an ETEC vaccine.

“ETEC is a great first project as it targets populations that are of interest to all the organizations involved,” said IDRI Senior Scientist Mark Orr, Ph.D., who serves as the ETEC Project Leader for IDRI. “Potential populations that could benefit would include the military, travelers and infants and toddlers in developing countries.”

While adults don’t generally suffer long-term effects from acute diarrhea, Orr pointed out that this is not necessarily the case for children. “ETEC is an acute disease that can leave children with stunted growth, slow cognitive development and a host of other issues,” said Orr. “But what we know is kids get ETEC early in life – under the age of five – and they can develop an immune response that prevents recurrent disease. This shows us that a vaccine is possible.”

“This is a truly collaborative partnership that shows what can happen when people come together with a common goal, even as it affects multiple populations,” said Orr.