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Enterotoxigenic E. Coli gastroenteritis

Escherichia coli is a bacterium commonly found in the normal intestinal microbiome of humans and other animals. Most strains of E. coli are beneficial or harmless, but some have disease-causing characteristics. Enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC), for example, produces several toxins that stimulate the lining of the gut to secrete excess water, causing diarrhea.

ETEC is a major cause of diarrheal disease in the developing world, especially in children. It accounts for an estimated 280 million to 400 million cases of diarrhea a year in children under five and an estimated 157,000 deaths per year. In developed countries, ETEC is associated with “traveler’s diarrhea” and is a growing cause of foodborne illness.

The current standard of care for children suffering from diarrhea is the administration of a low-osmolarity oral rehydration solution (ORS) generally consisting of water and electrolytes. While this treatment can help to reduce the danger from life-threatening dehydration,  it does not reduce the duration or severity of diarrhea. Worldwide, 38% of children receive ORS therapy for diarrhea.

VEN BETA for ETEC gastroenteritis

Several protein components of human breastmilk, including lactoferrin and lysozyme, are known to help protect nursing infants from enteric infections. This is one reason the World Health Organization, as part of its initiatives to prevent diarrheal diseases, recommends exclusive breastfeeding in infants under 6 months of age. It is highly impractical, however, to source these proteins from natural human breastmilk for therapeutic use.

Using ExpressTec, Ventria Bioscience is able to cost-effectively produce high yields of food-quality, orally available proteins, including the key components of breastmilk responsible for its anti-diarrheal properties. Ventria Bioscience has received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to foster the development of a new therapeutic targeting ETEC, based on the oral delivery of recombinant breastmilk proteins. Several of the protein components of breastmilk have been shown to be safe for oral delivery and, in separate studies, to reduce incidence, duration, and severity of diarrhea in multiple clinical studies. For example, a clinical study sponsored by Ventria Bioscience in collaboration with Dr. Bo Lonnerdal  at UC Davis and Dr. Nelly Zavaleta at Children’s Hospital in Lima, Peru  concluded that ORS containing Ventria Bioscience milk proteins reduced the duration of symptoms by nearly 30%  in 140 children with acute diarrhea compared to standard of care. Importantly, the healthcare cost savings more than offset any increased cost from the new ORS ingredients.