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Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 0:02 EDT

Novartis Working On Possible E. Coli Vaccine

May 4, 2010

Scientists at the Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis pharmaceutical company have uncovered components that they believe will help develop a vaccine that will protect people against E. coli bacterial infections in all of their forms.

The research, which was completed at a Novartis laboratory in Italy, centered around gene mapping of the Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacterium itself. Using the gene map, they were able to select a series of antigens to the disease-causing strains of E. coli, and discovered that nine of them were able to protect laboratory mice from infection with pathogenic bacteria.

While E. coli are typically found in most animals and in humans, certain strains of the bacteria can cause illness including urinary tract infection, blood poisoning, colitis, and neonatal meningitis. It often is associated with food-related illnesses, especially in infected meat or in fresh produce that has come in contact with manure.

However, Novartis’ discovery may mark the end of E. coli concerns.

“We know that we have the potential there, and this could mean that once you get vaccinated you could even be covered against all the different diseases that E. coli can cause,” MariaGrazia Pizza, a member of the company’s research team, told Kate Kelland of Reuters in a telephone interview.

She also told Kelland that experiments involving computer modeling and laboratory mice would continue, and that the first testing of the vaccine on humans could occur within the next two years.

“The development of such a vaccine will be very challenging for the company, but if we were successful at the end, obviously it would be a big thing,” Pizza concluded.

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