If there’s one thing that can knock even the most seasoned adventurers out of commission while traveling, it’s getting sick. Especially when it comes to traveling to less-developed areas of the world or into environments where standards of hygiene are subpar and getting a seriously upset stomach is a very real possibility. The most common travel-related illness is traveler’s diarrhea, and it can last anywhere from three to seven days — more than enough time to ruin your trip.
Until now, there has been no vaccine for traveler’s diarrhea and therefore no way to prevent its onset. Right now, all you can do is watch what you eat abroad and pray you don’t get sick. New research published by Professor Mario Monteiro at the University of Guelph, however, may be the biggest step yet toward a vaccine that fully prevents traveler’s diarrhea.
Recently published in the journal Vaccine, his research revolves around a conjugate vaccine, which blends proteins from E. coli with sugars from Shigella and Campylobacter jejuni. All three pathogens are huge causes of bacterial diarrhea across the world. The ability to defend against them would be a revolutionary medical development, especially as the same pathogens are also responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 children under age five each year. So far, testing of the vaccine has been encouraging. In tests with mice, it successfully provided immunity against all three pathogens.
While previous vaccines have been designed to fight bacterial diarrhea, those only targeted a single pathogen instead of all three. Monteiro himself developed a sugar-based vaccine back in 2009, but it only fought Campylobacter jejuni. He hopes his new three-in-one approach will ultimately lead to the most successful vaccine to date.
While progress thus far has been encouraging, further research is still needed to determine the exact composition of the vaccine to ensure maximum efficiency. Monteiro’s new three-in-one method has been patented by the University of Guelph and the United States Naval Medical Research Center.