Patent Issued for Novel Therapeutic Agent Targeting Intestinal Pathogen

April 11, 2024

In December 2023, Drs. Gayatri Vedantam and V.K. Viswanathan were awarded a patent (#11,839,649) for a novel therapeutic agent targeted against the intestinal pathogen Clostridioides difficile. This organism causes severe diarrheal disease in humans and animals, and the US CDC has designated it an “Urgent Threat” to US healthcare. When patients are given antibiotics to prevent or treat infections, normal gut bacteria are suppressed (dysbiosis), and this allows C. difficile to colonize the GI tract, produce toxins, and cause disease. There is currently no vaccine to prevent C. difficile infection (CDI). Patients suffering from CDI are thus treated with yet more antibiotics that kill C. difficile, but delay the recovery of normal protective bacteria, perpetuating further cycles of disease.

To bypass this problem, the Vedantam laboratory engineered lactobacillus bacteria to mimic the cell surface of C. difficile. The resulting synthetic biologic (“Syn-LAB”) homes into, and occupies, the same areas in the gut where C. difficile would normally establish disease. In this scenario of microbial musical chairs, C. difficile loses out to Syn-LAB and is unable to cause disease. Syn-LAB is very effective in protecting hamsters and neonatal piglets against CDI. The V&V team are now completing pre-clinical testing of Syn-LAB and are focused on deploying it as both a preventive and treatment strategy against C. difficile in porcine and human populations.

Drs. Vedantam and Viswanathan are Co-Directors of the Collaboratory for Anti-Infectives and Therapeutics (CATS), and they are actively exploring other novel treatment strategies to protect against deadly gastrointestinal infections.