Food Safety Magazine

News | February 21, 2013

NIH-funded Researchers Begin Trial of Shigella Vaccine Candidates

By Staff

Researchers have launched an early-stage human clinical trial of two related candidate vaccines to prevent infection with Shigella, bacteria that are a significant cause of diarrheal illness, particularly among children. The Phase I clinical trial, funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, will evaluate the vaccines for safety and their ability to induce immune responses among 90 healthy adults ages 18 to 45 years. The trial is being conducted at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, one of the eight NIAID-funded Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units in the United States.

Shigella infection, called shigellosis, is an intestinal disease spread via contact with infected feces, by consumption of contaminated food or water or by contact with a contaminated surface. According to the World Health Organization, shigellosis causes roughly 90 million cases of severe disease each year and 108,000 deaths, most of which occur in the developing world and affect children under 5 years of age. In the United States, 14,000 shigellosis cases are reported annually, with most cases occurring among children ages 1 to 4 years.

Led by principal investigator Robert W. Frenck, Jr., M.D., director of clinical medicine at Cincinnati Children’s, the new clinical trial will evaluate two related candidate vaccines, known as WRSs2 and WRSs3, which have been found to be safe and effective when tested in guinea pigs and nonhuman primates. Both target Shigella sonnei, one of the bacteria’s four subtypes and the cause of most shigellosis outbreaks in developed and newly industrialized countries. Though neither candidate vaccine has been tested in humans, a precursor to both, known as WRSs1, was found to be safe and generated an immune response in small human trials.

WRSs2 and WRSs3 are live, attenuated vaccines, which means that the bacteria they contain are weakened such that they do not cause illness but still can induce an immune response. The weakened versions of S. sonnei used in WRSs2 and WRSs3 cannot spread between human cells, limiting their ability to cause disease. They are designed to improve upon WRSs1 by reducing the mild diarrhea associated with that vaccine in some patients. In addition, WRSs3 is designed to reduce the fever that accompanied some WRSs1 vaccinations.

Additional information about the clinical trial is available at under the identifier NCT01336699.