Current progress in developing subunit vaccines against enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli-associated Diarrhea

Weiping Zhang, David A. Sack

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Diarrhea continues to be a leading cause of death in children <5 years of age, and enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) is the most common bacterial cause of children's diarrhea. Currently, there are no available vaccines against ETEC-associated diarrhea. Whole-cell vaccine candidates have been under development but require further improvements because they provide inadequate protection and produce unwanted adverse effects. Meanwhile, a newer approach using polypeptide or subunit vaccine candidates focusing on ETEC colonization factor antigens (CFAs) and enterotoxins, the major virulence determinants of ETEC diarrhea, shows substantial promise. A conservative CFA/I adhesin tip antigen and a CFA MEFA (multiepitope fusion antigen) were shown to induce cross-reactive antiadhesin antibodies that protected against adherence by multiple important CFAs. Genetic fusion of toxoids derived from ETEC heat-labile toxin (LT) and heat-stable toxin (STa) induced antibodies neutralizing both enterotoxins. Moreover, CFA-toxoid MEFA polypeptides, generated by fusing CFA MEFA to an STa-LT toxoid fusion, induced antiadhesin antibodies that broadly inhibited adherence of the seven most important ETEC CFAs associated with about 80% of the diarrhea cases caused by ETEC strains with known CFAs. This same antigen preparation also induced antitoxin antibodies that neutralized both toxins that are associated with all cases of ETEC diarrhea. Results from these studies suggest that polypeptide or subunit vaccines have the potential to effectively protect against ETEC diarrhea. In addition, novel adhesins and mucin proteases have been investigated as potential alternatives or, more likely, additional antigens for ETEC subunit vaccine development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)983-991
Number of pages9
JournalClinical and Vaccine Immunology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Microbiology (medical)


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