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Research project targets E. coli infection in pigs

Canadian scientists are working on the development of edible antibody therapeutics that can protect human and animal health by preventing E. coli 0157 infection in pigs.

The team consists of scientists attached to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and Western University, in London, ON, Canada together with Canadian biopharmaceutical company PlantForm.

Working with edible antibody therapeutics could be a novel way of preventing E. coli related problems. - Photo: Henk Riswick
Working with edible antibody therapeutics could be a novel way of preventing E. coli related problems. - Photo: Henk Riswick

Therapeutic antibody fragments targeting E. coli

The 2-year research project will use the company’s tobacco-plant-based platform to express therapeutic antibody fragments that target E. coli. The plants are then given to pigs as a feed additive. The researchers aim to show that antibodies in the plants will reduce E. coli infection and transmission by interacting with the animals’ natural defence systems to block the pathogen’s ability to colonise the gut wall and prevent shedding of E. coli in faeces.

The project builds upon previous research by AAFC scientist Dr Rima Menassa aimed at developing veterinary vaccines and antibodies for E. coli and other pathogens as alternatives to treatment with antibiotics.

Dr Menassa’s lab identified an antibody that binds to E. coli and prevents it from colonising epithelial cells lining the gut wall. Dr Menassa said, “The goal of this project is to develop an easy and effective way to reduce or eliminate shedding of viable E. coli from pigs and break that cycle of infection and transmission.”