South Dakota State University is partnering with animal health company Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica to develop a new technology to protect pigs against a deadly form of E. coli.

SDSU has published its research findings on the technology and filed a patent application. The new technology was developed by Weiping Zhang and David Francis of SDSU's Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences Department. Their work focused on enterotoxigenic E. coli, or ETEC.

ETEC bacteria produce toxins called enterotoxins that affect the tissues lining the intestine and cause vomiting and diarrhea. Currently, no preventative solutions are available from major veterinary companies to combat ETEC.

Denichiro Otsuga, director of SDSU's Technology Transfer Office saw a commercial opportunity in the SDSU invention. However, in order to help pork producers to reduce their losses to ETEC, Otsuga and SDSU needed an industrial partner to help commercialize the technology.

"The partnership between SDSU and Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica already has produced a product that benefits producers and pigs,” Otsuga said. “SDSU and the University of Minnesota collaborated years ago in developing a patented vaccine for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, that has been licensed to Boehringer Ingelheim and sold as a vaccine to prevent the death of piglets."

That long-standing relationship with Boehringer Ingelheim made SDSU look to the company for a possible partner on development of the ETEC invention to protect the health of swine herds and create value to the producers.

SDSU researchers altered the toxin genes to make the bacterium produce a non-poisonous "toxoid," then genetically fused the genes of two modified toxins to enhance their immune reaction. The bacterium producing the resulting "fusion protein" plus other important products could be used to develop a vaccine to fight against the ETEC bacteria.

"Once commercialized, the innovation from SDSU could be made available as a vaccine to protect weaning pigs from E. coli infections. When such a vaccine becomes available, it would add value to the swine industry, including South Dakota producers," said Otsuga. "The technology also has possible applications in human health.

Besides causing diarrheal illness in pigs, ETEC strains are a major cause of bacterial-caused diarrhea in human populations in the developing world. ETEC is the chief cause of traveler's diarrhea. The World Health Organization estimates that ETEC causes approximately 210 million cases of illness in humans and 380,000 deaths, mostly in children in developing countries.

The research is one of the ongoing projects in SDSU's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Vaccinology, which looks for new ways to diagnose and treat infectious disease in humans and animals.

Source: SDSU