Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) is a major cause of diarrhoea in travellers and, according to the World Health Organization, is responsible for between 300,000 and 500,000 deaths a year. However, there are no effective vaccines for ETEC, which means that patients are treated with antibiotics. New treatment methods are required due to the emergence of multi-drug resistant bacteria.
The researchers clarified how pathogenic E.coli attaches to the host intestinal epithelium, which is an essential step for ETEC infection in humans. “We demonstrated that type IV pili on the surface of the bacteria were not sufficient for ETEC adherence to intestinal epithelial cells and that proteins secreted by E.coli were also necessary,” said Shota Nakamura, one of the corresponding authors. “The administration of antibodies against the secreted proteins inhibited attachment of the E.coli." The team believes the results will lead to the development of new vaccines for ETEC, and also anti-adhesion agents for preventing the binding of proteins implicated in bacterial attachment.