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Hope for major advance in fighting world killer disease

University of Leicester scientists are heading a worldwide research project which could revolutionise the diagnosis and treatment of diarrhoea in children in developing countries.

The four-year project, the results of which are now being piloted in four hospitals in India, will offer a means of identifying the two most deadly forms of the disease quickly, cheaply and with little training necessary for practitioners.

The implications for improving children's health could be enormous. Diarrhoea is a major killer in developing countries. World Health Organisation statistics indicate that more than 2 million people die each year from the effects of diarrhoea, most of them children under five years old.

Diarrhoea is caused by a range of bacterial, viral and parasitic organisms, and is usually spread by contaminated water and poor sanitation. Two particular bacteria , enteropathogenic E.coli (EPEC), which causes a persistent infection lasting more than 14 days, and Shigella, the cause of dysentery - are the most deadly in terms of killing children. They cause only 20% of cases of diarrhoea but result in 60% of deaths. It is these two killers - EPEC and Shigella - that the Leicester-led project is targeting.

Peter Williams, Professor of Microbiology in the Department of Genetics, and Leicester colleagues Uta Praekelt and Marie Singer, are working with scientists at the Robert Koch Institute in Germany and Anna University in Chennai India, and with doctors at the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India, and at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Their project, called the European-Asian Challenge to Childhood Diarrhoea, or EACh-ChilD (because each child is precious!) currently receives funding of 1m from the European Union, but in its earlier stages it was supported by an Academic Links Scheme funded by the British Council and the Indian University Grants Commission.

Professor Williams
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Contact: Peter Williams
phw2@le.ac.uk
44-116-252-3317
University of Leicester
13-Sep-2006


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