Skip to main content

Easing the global burden of diarrhoeal disease: can synthetic biology help?

Abstract

The Millennium Declaration committed the 193 member states of the United Nations to end poverty by 2015. Despite the efforts of the UN and World Health Organisation, and the G8 commitment to spend a fixed proportion of gross national income on overseas aid, more than 2.6 billion people still lack access to proper sanitation. The absence of effective public health strategies in developing countries results in significant health burdens following gastrointestinal infections. Diarrhoea associated with infections resulting from oral-faecal contamination is the second leading cause of death in children under 5 years of age, primarily in Africa and South Asia. Currently there are no appropriate vaccines that could be easily administered on a global scale to prevent these infections. Synthetic biology has the potential to contribute to development of such vaccines. Our work is directed at developing a range of multivalent oral vaccines against the most common diarrhoea-causing bacteria, e.g., Escherichia coli, Shigella and Salmonella. If synthetic biology is to avoid the suspicion and possible revulsion of the public, scientists need to demonstrate that this new field has something real to offer.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Annan KA (2000) http://www.un.org/millennium/sg/report/full.htm

  2. Bailey C, Metcalf H, Crook B (2012) Synthetic biology: A review of the technology, and current and future needs from the regulatory framework in Great Britain. Health and Safety Executive, Research Report RR944. http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrpdf/rr944.pdf

  3. Balmer A, Martin P (2008) Synthetic biology: social and ethical challenges institute for science and society, University of Nottingham. http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/organisation/policies/reviews/scientific-areas/0806-synthetic-biology.aspx

  4. Blakely GW, Murray NE (2009) DNA restriction and modification, in the encyclopedia of microbiology, 3rd Edition, edited by Moselio Schaechter, Elsevier

  5. Bradbrook S (2007) HSE horizon scanning intelligence group short report synthetic biology. SR010. http://www.hse.gov.uk/horizons/

  6. Burbelo PD, Ching KH, Han BL, Klimavicz CM, Iadarola MJ (2010) Synthetic biology for translational research. Am J Trans Res 2:381–389

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Church G (2005) Let us go forth and safely multiply. Nature 438:423. doi:10.1038/438423a

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Directive 2009/41/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 May 2009 on the contained use of genetically modified micro-organisms. Off J Eur Union. L 125/75. http://www.bmwf.gv.at/fileadmin/user_upload/forschung/gentechnik/2009-41-EC.pdf

  9. European Commission (2010) Synthetic Biology: From Science to Governance. A workshop organised by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Consumers, Brussels. http://ec.europa.eu/health/…/docs/synbio_workshop_report_en.pdf

  10. Fouchier R, Osterhaus A, Steinbruner J et al (2012) Preventing pandemics: the fight over flu. Nature 481:257–259. doi:10.1038/481257a

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. French CE, de Mora K, Joshi N, Elfick A, Haseloff J, Ajioka J (2011) Synthetic biology And the art of biosensor design. In: Institute of Medicine (US) Forum on Microbial Threats. The Science and Applications of Synthetic and Systems Biology: Workshop Summary. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US). A5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK84465/

  12. Garfinkel MS, Endy D, Epstein GL, Friedman RM (2007) Synthetic genomics: options for governance available here. http://www.jcvi.org/cms/fileadmin/site/research/projects/synthetic-genomics-report/synthetic-genomics-report.pdf

  13. Hoshino K et al (1999) Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4)-deficient mice are hyporesponsive to lipopolysaccharide: evidence for TLR4 as the Lps gene product. J Immunol 162:3749–3752

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. ISBN: 978-92-4-159841-5 (NLM classification: WS 312) (WHO). http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2009/9789241598415_eng.pdf

  15. Kelle A (2007) Synthetic biology and biosecurity: awareness in Europe. Bradford Science and Technology Report No.9. http://www.synbiosafe.eu/uploads///pdf/Synbiosafe-Biosecurity_awareness_in_Europe_Kelle.pdf

  16. Martin DK, Greenwood HL, Nisker J (2010) Public perceptions of ethical issues regarding adult predictive genetic testing. Health Care Anal 18:103–112

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Maurer SM, Lucas KV, Terrell S (2006) From understanding to action: community-based options for improving safety and security in synthetic biology. Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley. http://gspp.berkeley.edu/iths/UC%20White%20Paper.pdf

  18. Murray K, Bruce SA, Hinnen A, Wingfield P, van Erd PM, de Reus A, Schellekens H (1984) Hepatitis B virus antigens made in microbial cells immunise against viral infection. EMBO J 3:645–650

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Pasotti L, Zucca S, Lupotto M, Cusella De Angelis MG, Magni P (2011) Characterization of a synthetic bacterial self-destruction device for programmed cell death and for recombinant proteins release. J Biol Eng 5

  20. Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (2010). New directions: the ethics of synthetic biology and emerging technologies. http://bioethics.gov/cms/sites/default/files/PCSBI-Synthetic-Biology-Report-12.16.10_0.pdf

  21. WHO report (2011) The world health report—Health systems financing: the path to universal coverage. http://www.who.int/whr/2010/en/index.html

  22. Ro D, Paradise EM, Ouellet M, Fisher KJ, Newman KL, Ndungu JM, Ho KA, Eachus RA, Ham TS, Kirby J, Chang MCY, Withers ST, Shiba Y, Sarpong R, Keasling JD (2006) Production of the antimalarial drug precursor artemisinic acid in engineered yeast. Nature 440:940–943

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Ruder WC, Lu T, Collins JJ (2011) Synthetic biology moving into the clinic. Science 333:1248–1252

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. Schmidt M, Ganguli-Mitra A, Torgersen H, Kelle A, Deplanes A, Biller-Andorno N (2009) A priority paper for the societal and ethical aspects of synthetic biology. Syst Synth Biol 3:3–7

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Technology Strategy Board on behalf of UK Synthetic Biology Roadmap Coordination Group (2012). A synthetic biology roadmap for the UK. http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/Publications/reports/Pages/syntheticbiologyroadmap.aspx

  26. van Est R, de Vriend H, Walhout B (2007) Constructing Life: The World of Synthetic Biology, Rathenau Institute—Technology Assessment. http://www.synbiosafe.eu/uploads///pdf/BAP_Synthetic_biology_nov2007[1].pdf

  27. Veenstra DL, Roth JA, Garrison LP Jr, Ramsey SD, Burke W (2010) A formal risk-benefit framework for genomic tests: facilitating the appropriate translation of genomics into clinical practice. Genetics in Medicine 12:686–693. doi:10.1097/GIM.0b013e3181eff533

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Weber W, Schoenmakers R, Keller B, Gitzinger M, Grau T, Daoud-El Baba M, Sander P, Fussenegger M (2008) A synthetic mammalian gene circuit reveals antituberculosis compounds. PNAS 105:9994–9998

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  29. WHO (2009) Diarrhoea: Why children are still dying and what can be done

  30. Windbichler N, Menichelli M, Papathanos PA, Thyme SB, Li H, Ulge UY, Hovde BT, Baker D, Monnat RJ Jr, Burt A, Crisanti A (2011) A synthetic homing endonuclease-based gene drive system in the human malaria mosquito. Nature 473:212–217

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Conor Douglas and Dirk Stemerding for organizing the SYBHEL workshop on Synthetic Biology and Global Health. PV is supported by a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grant awarded to GWB.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Garry W. Blakely.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Vohra, P., Blakely, G.W. Easing the global burden of diarrhoeal disease: can synthetic biology help?. Syst Synth Biol 7, 73–78 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11693-013-9114-6

Download citation

Keywords

  • Global health
  • Diarrhoeal disease
  • Synthetic biology
  • Vaccines