June 13, 2008
New Patch May Protect Against Montezuma’s Revenge
The development of a new experimental patch could protect travelers from developing diarrhea, known as Montezuma's Revenge.
Created by Iomai Corp., the needle-free vaccine protected more than 70 percent of visitors to Mexico and Guatemala from becoming ill, according to a research report published in the Lancet medical journal on Wednesday.
"I think it's one of the most exciting new developments in travel medicine," said Dr. Herbert DuPont of the University of Texas in Houston, who helped test the vaccine.
"People could buy this and put it on themselves whenever they take a trip. It is the most convenient form of immunization I have ever seen." Dupont said.
Scientists at Iomai, along with DuPont's independent team and a group at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, tested the patches in a Phase II safety and efficacy trial, which involved 170 adults who traveled to areas commonly known to produce the illness.
The vaccine protects against Escherichia coli bacteria -- specifically a strain known as Enterotoxigenic E. coli or ETEC.
It is the leading cause of diarrhea in travelers to certain areas, causing four to five days of misery including nausea and cramps.
During and after travel, 15 percent of the patients who got the vaccine developed diarrhea of any type, and just 5 percent had ETEC-associated diarrhea. This compared to 22 percent of travelers who got placebo, 10 percent of whom had ETEC diarrhea.
Eleven percent of the travelers who got placebo had severe diarrhea, compared to 2 percent of those who got the patch.
"It looked like it prevented more than 70 percent of the episodes of moderate or severe traveler's diarrhea," DuPont said. "This vaccine is among the best we have for these kinds of diseases."
What's more, the patch seemed to protect against non- ETEC related cases of diarrhea.
Austrian vaccine maker Intercell is in the process of buying Maryland-based Iomai, which also has a patch that boosts the effects of influenza vaccines.
The needle-free approach could work against other infectious diseases, DuPont said.
The company plans a Phase III trial of the vaccine -- the last stage of testing before seeking U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.
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