According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 582 million cases of intestinal infection and 351,000 deaths in 2010--the most recent data available--were caused by foodborne viruses and bacteria. To help combat such widespread outbreaks and loss of life, there is much work being done to develop vaccines that fight some of the most common foodborne microbes.
While improving sanitation programs and enhancing methods used to track foodborne illnesses are viewed as two ways to fight the foodborne disease epidemic, it is believed that vaccinations will have the biggest, most positive impact, ultimately saving money while building immunity into affected populations. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that a vaccine could prevent up to 2.2 million illnesses in the U.S. each year, not to mention saving up to $2.1 billion in medical costs.
So, what’s being done to fight foodborne diseases once and for all?
Takeda is a Japanese pharmaceutical firm. They are testing a potential vaccine against norovirus in phase II clinical trial. The vaccine has already shown promising results against a number of common viral strains. Takeda’s vaccine research is setting the precedent.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Since 2007, the organization founded by Bill Gates--the richest man in the world--has allocated $50 million for the purpose of developing vaccines against two of the most well-known foodborne bacteria--Shigella and enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli. Through 2018, the foundation plans to give another $64 million to this vaccine research.
Besides various research studies in progress to find effective vaccinations, there are some that have already shown some promise. The vaccine for rotavirus, caused by gastroenteritis, was added to WHO’s list of recommended immunizations back in 2013. Research showed that the vaccine was up to 90 percent effective in preventing a foodborne illness from developing for up to one year after receiving the shot.