Preclinical characterization of immunogenicity and efficacy against diarrhea from mecvax, a multivalent enterotoxigenic e. coli vaccine candidate

Hyesuk Seo, Carolina Garcia, Xiaosai Ruan, Qiangde Duan, David A. Sack, Weiping Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There are no vaccines licensed for enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC), a leading cause of diarrhea for children in developing countries and international travelers. Virulence heterogeneity among strains and difficulties identifying safe antigens for protective antibodies against STa, a potent but poorly immunogenic heat-stable toxin which plays a key role in ETEC diarrhea, are challenges in ETEC vaccine development. To overcome these challenges, we applied a toxoid fusion strategy and a novel epitope- and structure-based multiepitope fusion antigen (MEFA) vaccinology platform to construct two chimeric multivalent proteins, toxoid fusion 3xSTaN12S-mnLTR192G/L211A and adhesin CFA/I/II/IV MEFA, and demonstrated that the proteins induced protective antibodies against STa and heat-labile toxin (LT) produced by all ETEC strains or the seven most important ETEC adhesins (CFA/I and CS1 to CS6) expressed by the ETEC strains causing 60 to 70% of diarrheal cases and moderate to severe cases. Combining two proteins, we prepared a protein-based multivalent ETEC vaccine, MecVax. MecVax was broadly immunogenic; mice and pigs intramuscularly immunized with MecVax developed no apparent adverse effects but had robust antibody responses to the target toxins and adhesins. Importantly, MecVax-induced antibodies were broadly protective, demonstrated by significant adherence inhibition against E. coli bacteria producing any of the seven adhesins and neutralization of STa and cholera toxin (CT) enterotoxicity. Moreover, MecVax protected against watery diarrhea and provided over 70% and 90% protection against any diarrhea from an STa-positive or an LT-positive ETEC strain in a pig challenge model. These results indicated that MecVax induces broadly protective antibodies and prevents diarrhea preclinically, signifying that MecVax is potentially an effective injectable vaccine for ETEC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00106-21
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Diarrhea
  • ETEC
  • Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli
  • Injectable multivalent vaccine
  • MEFA
  • MecVax
  • Multiepitope fusion antigen
  • Pig model
  • Toxoid fusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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