Six tangible targets to defeat diarrheal disease

Sep 28, 2016


Deborah Kidd
science writer

In our latest video, our intervention superheroes win a village battle against four of the six top diarrhea pathogens.



It's a word you hear from us fairly often: Together, our voices raise the volume of a global conversation to defeat diarrhea. Together, all available interventions can achieve the greatest impact. Together, scientists, clinicians, officials, and advocates can conquer this common but serious childhood threat.


A new study shines a different light on the concept of “together.” From more than 10,000 samples in high-burden countries around the world, scientists closely analyzed the occurrence of more than 40 diarrhea-causing pathogens. They ultimately identified a small but deadly coalition: Together, only six pathogens cause nearly 80% of infections. In descending order of attribution, these culprits are Shigella, rotavirus, adenovirus, ST-ETEC, Cryptosporidium, and Campylobacter.


While these pathogens remain serious threats to low-income communities, collectively they also set a tangible target for research. As study co-author, Eric Houpt of the University of Virginia notes, “It's not a hopelessly long list of infections that we can't do anything about.” The even-better news is that several partners already have these pathogens in their sites. In the case of ETEC and Shigella, PATH and other international experts are developing vaccines that will one day knock these two pathogens off the ominous list. From all corners of the globe, they are working toward a shared goal of saving children's lives, and they are working—you guessed it—together.