Vaccine for 'Delhi belly' could save 500,000 lives

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Holidaymakers will soon be offered protection against Delhi Belly, the bug which causes diarrhoea in half of visitors to remote parts of the world .

Holidaymakers will soon be offered protection against Delhi Belly, the bug which causes diarrhoea in half of visitors to remote parts of the world .

Scientists have developed a vaccine against the condition, also known as Montezuma's Revenge, which is expected to be on the market within a year.

Dukoral is an oral vaccine taken as a drink in two doses at least a week before departure and provides up to three months' protection against infection by enterotoxigenic E.coli, the most common cause of the condition.

It also acts against cholera, which causes profuse wasting diarrhoea. The vaccine could save between two-thirds and 85 per cent of the 500,000 lives a year lost to diarrhoea worldwide.Already licensed in Scandinavia, Canada, New Zealand, and a dozen other countries, Dukoral has now been recommended for approval in Europe by the expert committee of the European Medicines Evaluation Agency.

Suni Boraston, a specialist in travel medicine in Vancouver, said: "I have patients who have taken all the necessary precautions - drinking purified water, eating fully cooked and hot food, and peeling their own fruit - and they have still been affected by travellers' diarrhoea. Dukoral provides the best protection against the most common causes of the condition."

Drug companies believe the misery caused by an upset stomach and its potential to ruin expensive holiday plans will create a market worth up to US$400m (£220m) a year.

Dukoral, the first vaccine for travellers' diarrhoea to be brought to market, is made by Powderject Pharmaceuticals of Oxford, a subsidiary of the Chiron Corporation.

Rival vaccines are in development by other companies including Microscience, a British biotechnology company which reports successful completion of Phase 1 safety trials in 36 volunteers today. But its developers say it could be "four or five years" before patients can go to their doctors and ask for its product in order to avoid tummy trouble abroad.

The risk of getting diarrhoea is, unsurprisingly, lower in Western Europe and North America with an estimated 7 per cent of travellers affected, than in developing countries where the risk rises to 20 to 50 per cent.

But the British appear to be the worst affected. A study published in The Lancet showed just over half of all visitors to Kenya and India fell victim to diarrhoea during their visits with the British most likely to suffer.

Experts said the reason for the difference was personal hygiene - the failure of British tourists to wash their hands.

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