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KSU veterinary researchers work on vaccine for E. Coli virus


Researchers at Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine have conducted studies with greyhounds that indicate a vaccine for E. Coli food poisoning may be possible.

Greyhounds are the first animals found to develop symptoms similar to humans when exposed to the E. Coli bacteria. Racing greyhounds are fed raw ground meat which makes them prime candidates for E. Coli exposure. E. Coli food poisoning in humans also is caused by eating poorly cooked meat.

Since the E. Coli infections are closely related, progress on the development of a vaccine for greyhounds may be applicable to humans in the future, said Bradley Fenwick, veterinarian and pathobiologist at K-State.

"We've had an experiment where we've been able to protect the dogs with an immune serum," Fenwick said. "We gave the serum to the dogs so they have antibodies to the toxin. If we give them those antibodies before they're exposed to the toxin, it appears that they're protected, which argues that a vaccine could very well be effective."

Fenwick said the vaccine, applied to humans, would help people who are more susceptible to the disease, including children, residents of underdeveloped countries or people who often eat rare meat.

"As veterinarians, we're always pretty excited when we can take a disease in animals, learn something and apply it to human medicine to make the condition better," Fenwick said. "Then, in time, what we learn of the human condition comes back around and we can apply it to the dogs. It makes a nice circle, and this research with E. Coli is a good example of that."

Symptoms of E. Coli in humans can include anemia, bleeding, diarrhea and kidney failure. Research on this project was sponsored in part by the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission through the Greyhound Racing Fund.

May 8, 1997