Woman holds her baby while another gives drops of an oral vaccine.

Vaccines against ETEC and Shigella could play a critical role in reducing diarrheal disease. Photo: PATH/Deborah Phillips.

Developing vaccines against the leading bacterial causes of diarrheal disease

When diarrhea strikes an infant in the developed world, there's a safety net in place—doctors and hospitals ready to treat dehydration or prescribe antibiotics for the most common causes of diarrheal disease.

In poor countries, the picture is entirely different. Treatment can be hard to access, and diarrhea can be deadly. Vaccines to prevent diarrheal diseases are an essential and lifesaving part of diarrhea control strategies.

That's why PATH is developing vaccines against bacteria that cause diarrhea, such as enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) and Shigella. ETEC may be the first intestinal disease encountered by many infants, and Shigella is one of the most frequent causes of hospitalization from diarrhea. Vaccines against ETEC and Shigella could save hundreds of thousands of kids a year who now die from these infections, and may even reduce malnutrition and developmental delays associated with severe diarrhea in children.

To accelerate the development of safe, effective, and affordable vaccines against ETEC and Shigella, PATH is working with private- and public-sector partners. We are pursuing a range of promising vaccine approaches and related research, in an effort to make them available in the world's poorest countries as quickly as possible.

A broad strategy to fight diarrhea

Beyond the science, we are working on an advocacy effort to prioritize diarrheal disease within the broader public health arena. Our comprehensive strategy to fight diarrhea includes support for new and existing vaccines, improved oral rehydration solution, breastfeeding, zinc treatments, and safe drinking water. Winning the fight against childhood diarrhea requires a commitment to an integrated package of treatment and prevention options.

Screenshot from Real Progress for a New Generation video.

Hospital diarrhea wards in Nicaragua are now empty, thanks to lifesaving rotavirus vaccine. Watch the video. Photo: PATH.

In addition to PATH's work on bacterial causes of diarrheal disease, we are pursuing a strategy to reduce the burden of diarrhea from rotavirus—the most common cause of severe diarrhea in young children. PATH is providing technical support to countries in Africa and Asia interested in introducing existing vaccines against rotavirus. We are also working to ensure a sufficient supply and competitive pricing of rotavirus vaccines by partnering with emerging-country manufacturers to develop new rotavirus vaccines.

Worldwide, children's health is seriously affected by diarrheal disease every day. By advancing vaccines against the leading bacterial causes of this illness, PATH is improving children's odds of winning in the fight against diarrheal disease.