A U of G chemistry professor will share a U.S. patent for his work in developing a promising new carbohydrate-based vaccine against diarrheal disease.

Prof. Mario Monteiro worked with Dr. Patricia Guerry from the Naval Medical Research Centre’s Infectious Diseases Directorate to develop a novel vaccine for Campylobacter jejuni. This bacterium is a leading cause of food poisoning, with sources including contaminated water, dairy and poultry products.

Infectious diarrhea has historically been a substantial cause of illness for deployed service members. If hundreds of sailors in a naval vessel get diarrhea at the same time, it’s a big problem.

The vaccine is designed to stimulate an immune response in the body that prevents Campylobacter diarrhea.

Recent concerns about growing microbial resistance to drugs have sparked interest in alternatives, but few pharmaceutical companies make carbohydrate-based vaccines because of their complex chemistry. Most vaccine research is based on whole cells or proteins. In Monteiro’s strategy, however, no harmful contaminants accompany the duplicated carbohydrate, as they do with some traditional vaccines.

Monteiro explains that all bacteria and viruses have distinctive carbohydrate structures projecting from their surfaces. The body’s immune system recognizes these carbohydrates as a way of identifying the pathogen, then responds by releasing pathogen-fighting cells to attack and destroy them.

There are currently no licensed vaccines against Camplyobacter jejuni but this breakthrough has opened the way for testing in humans with a phase one trial projected for 2012-2013.