By Ed Yeates
SALT LAKE CITY — Imagine traveling to exotic places and eating and drinking what you want, but never having to worry about Montezuma’s Revenge.
Clinical trials are now underway on a small patch you wear on your arm that might just give you that kind of freedom.
Medical patches are routinely used to relieve pain or nicotine addiction, but folks now are testing a different kind of patch when they go abroad to see if it can prevent a traveler’s nightmare.
For example, Cathie Jones loves outdoor markets. She loves to wander the streets and see the people.
“I like all the typical food. I love it and want to try it,” she says.
Researchers say the patch only needs to be worn for six hours and acts like a vaccination for E. coli
Jones has traveled to Guatemala several times on medical humanitarian missions, but on this particular trip she volunteered for a clinical trial where she wore a literal piece of immunity on her arm.
“I didn’t have quite as good of luck on those times before,” she says. “But this time I ate what I wanted, drank what I wanted.”
She didn’t get sick–no diarrhea, no stomach or digestive problems.
Jean Brown Research in Salt Lake City has been testing the patch. The research group most likely will resume U.S. studies soon, but for now project manager Stephanie Tsuruda will travel abroad to help the pharmaceutical company with expanded third-stage clinical trials.
“This is a bigger population, and this time they’re going to have travelers from Europe that will be traveling to either Mexico or Guatemala,” Tsuruda says.
Volunteers get an extra bonus in the form of a unique compensation: the pharmaceutical maker of the patch pays airfare and hotel accommodations, or travelers can take a lump sum payment and make their own arrangements.
As for the patch itself, since E. coli is the No. 1 cause of traveler’s diarrhea, the product–which is worn for only six hours–is sort of like a vaccination.
“There’s E. coli in the patch, and it goes through the skin and causes an antibody reaction,” Tsuruda explains.
Clinical trials are double-blinded, meaning at time of the trips, volunteers don’t know whether they’re wearing a dummy patch or the real McCoy.
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