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Volunteer challenge with enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) has been used for four decades to elucidate the pathogenesis and immune responses and assess efficacy of various interventions. We performed a systematic review of these studies and a meta-analysis of individual patient-level data (IPD) from a subset of studies using standard methodology.
We identified 27 studies of 11 ETEC strains administered to 443 naive subjects at doses from 1 × 106 to 1 × 1010 colony forming units (cfu). Diarrhea attack rates varied by strain, dose and enterotoxin. Similar rates were seen at doses of 5 × 108 to 1 × 1010 cfu with the three most commonly used strains B7A, E24377A, H10407. In IPD analysis, the highest diarrhea attack rates were seen with strains B7A, H10407 and E24377A. The H10407 induced significantly higher stool output than the other strains. Additionally, the rate of output was different across strains.
The risk of diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and headaches differed significantly by ETEC strain. An increased risk of nausea, abdominal cramps and headaches was seen for females. Baseline anti-LT IgG titers appeared to be associated with a decrease risk of diarrhea outcomes, a trend not seen with anti-LT IgA or seen consistently with anti-colonization factor antibodies. Neither early antibiotic treatment nor diarrhea duration significantly affected the frequency or magnitude of serologic responses.
These studies have served as an invaluable tool in understanding disease course, pathogenicity, innate immune responses and an early assessment of product efficacy. When designing and planning experimental ETEC infection studies in this age of increased ethical scrutiny and growing appreciation of post-infectious sequelae, better understanding of available data is essential.