Background: Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) and enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) are important causes of diarrhoea in young children and are associated with significant mortality rates. Passive immunization with antibodies from immunized cows has previously been shown to be effective as prophylaxis against E. coli-induced diarrhoea and therapeutically against rotavirus and cryptosporidia-induced diarrhoea.
Methods: We tested the therapeutic efficacy of an oral bovine immunoglobulin milk concentrate (BIC) from cows hyperimmunized with ETEC and EPEC strains, in a randomized, placebo-controlled study in children with E. coli-induced diarrhoea. Eighty-six children between 4-24 months of age attending the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR, B) with E. coli-induced diarrhoea (63 EPEC/ETEC and 23 with other diarrhoeagenic E. coli) were randomly assigned to receive orally administered BIC (20 g) containing anti-ETEC/EPEC antibodies or a placebo preparation daily for 4 consecutive days. Daily stool output, intake of oral rehydration solution (ORS), stool frequency, and presence of diarrhoeagenic E. coli strains in the stool were monitored for 4 days.
Results: Children in the treatment group tolerated the BIC with no side effects. There were no significant differences between the two groups with regard to ORS intake, stool output, frequency of diarrhoea, or clearance of pathogen. Nor was there any significant alteration in the duration of diarrhoea.
Conclusions: In contrast to the prophylactic efficacy of anti-E. coli BIC and the therapeutic efficacy of a similarly prepared anti-rotavirus BIC, antibodies from hyperimmunized cows appear to have no significant therapeutic benefit in the treatment of acute diarrhoea due to EPEC/ETEC.