Researchers at Adelaide University in Australia developed a probiotic bacterium that binds and neutralizes the toxins in the E.coli bug 11 years ago. Its effectiveness was proven in medical trials in 2000 - but it's stayed in the laboratory ever since because the drug industry has not taken it up.
"The probiotic bacterium could be produced cheaply on a large scale. However...there has been a lack of interest from the commercial sector in taking this product forward," says Dr Adrienne Paton, one of the original research team members.
Had the drugs industry developed the university's initial research, the probiotic could have been deployed in the current virulent outbreak and would doubtlessly have saved lives, she said.
(Source: Nature Medicine, 2000; 6: 265-70).