Scientists developing new antibody ‘yoghurt’ that can combat a potentially fatal stomach


Scientists are developing a peppermint-flavoured ‘yogurt’ drink which can combat a debilitating and potentially fatal stomach bug which affects thousands of people in hospital every year.

Clostridioides difficile – also known as C. diff – is the leading cause of hospital-acquired diarrhoea and can be life-threatening for older patients. Currently the infection is treated with antibiotics, however these medicines are slowly becoming less effective.

This means an increasing number of patients see C. diff return, even after taking antibiotics, leading to more deaths.

But in a landmark trial, partly funded by the Government, C. diff patients will be offered a first-of-its-kind medicine designed to combat severe symptoms.

The drug, called OraCAb, is a drink taken three times a day which contains defensive antibody cells that seek out C. diff in the gut.

Clostridioides difficile ¿ also known as C. diff ¿ is the leading cause of hospital-acquired diarrhoea and can be life-threatening for older patients (stock photo)

Clostridioides difficile – also known as C. diff – is the leading cause of hospital-acquired diarrhoea and can be life-threatening for older patients (stock photo)

But in a landmark trial, partly funded by the Government, C. diff patients will be offered a first-of-its-kind medicine designed to combat severe symptoms (stock photo)

But in a landmark trial, partly funded by the Government, C. diff patients will be offered a first-of-its-kind medicine designed to combat severe symptoms (stock photo)

Taken alongside a course of antibiotics, OraCAb is not intended to destroy the C. diff infection itself. Instead, experts believe it will stop the bacteria from producing toxins which attack the stomach wall.

The trial, which will take place in Kenya and Australia where the bug is particularly prevalent, will begin early next year. It is supported by the UK Health Security Agency.

Experts say that, if successful OraCAb could be available on the NHS within five years.

There are around 18,000 C. diff infections in the UK every year, the majority of which happen in hospitals and care homes. Roughly one in seven of these infections will be deadly. This is usually because C. diff triggers a life-threatening infection of the abdomen’s inner lining called peritonitis.

Experts say a number of attempts to develop a vaccine against C. diff have failed, but OraCAb is a new approach, created by repeatedly exposing sheep to C. diff. The sheep then develop protective antibodies to combat the infections.

These antibodies are then collected and turned into a human medicine, which has the texture of a thick yogurt or syrup. ‘It looks like Gaviscon and pours like it too,’ says Ian Cameron, CEO of MicroPharm, the developer of the drug.

‘We’ve tested it in animals and it appears to work really well.’



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