Proliferation of enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli strain TW11681 in stools of experimentally infected human volunteers
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Background: As part of the efort to develop an enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) human challenge model for testing new heat-stable toxin (ST)-based vaccine candidates, a controlled human infection model study based on the ST-producing ETEC strain TW11681 was undertaken. Here, we estimate stool TW11681 DNA concentration and evaluate its association with dose, clinical symptoms, and with levels of antibodies targeting the CfaB subunit of the ETEC Colonization Factor Antigen I and the E. coli mucinase YghJ. Nine volunteers ingested diferent doses of the strain and were subsequently followed for 9 days with daily stool specimen collection and clinical examination. Stool DNA was purifed by using a newly developed microplate-based method, and DNA originating from TW11681 was quantifed by using a probe-based quantitative PCR assay. Antibody levels against CfaB and YghJ were measured in serum collected before and 10 and 28 days after TW11681 was ingested by using a bead-based fow cytometry immunoassay. Results: For 6 of the 9 volunteers, the stool TW11681 DNA concentration increased sharply a median 3.5 (range 2–5) days after dose ingestion, peaking at a median of 5.4% (range 3.3–8.2%) of the total DNA in the specimen. The concentration then fell sharply during the subsequent days, sometimes even before the onset of antibiotic treatment. The size or timing of these proliferation peaks did not seem to be associated with the number of TW11681 bacteria ingested, but the 2 volunteers who developed diarrhea and all fve who experienced abdominal pains or cramps had these peaks. The 3 volunteers who did not have the proliferation peaks experienced fewer symptoms and they generally had relatively low CfaB- and YghJ-specifc antibody levels before ingesting the strain and subsequently weaker responses than the other volunteers afterwards. Conclusions: Since the lack of proliferation peaks appears to be associated with fewer clinical symptoms and lower serum antibody responses to virulence factors of the infecting strain, it may be important to account for proliferation peaks when explaining results from controlled human infection model studies and for improving the accuracy of protective efcacy estimates when testing new ETEC diarrhea vaccine candidates.