Navy works on developing vaccine for food-borne illnesses
CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar — Along with the possibility of military members being deployed anywhere in the world at any time comes the possibility of medical problems. Whether it’s from unsanitary conditions, strange foods, or just not washing hands frequently, something as simple as a case of diarrhea can keep a servicemember out of the fight.
To help troops combat such problems, the Navy is working on developing a vaccine that will cure common food-borne illnesses, according to Army Capt. Ken Brooks, director of Health Services at the Troop Medical Clinic here.
To develop a vaccine, researchers need volunteers to act as a control group and patients. It was decided that troops arriving here for four days of rest and recuperation under the Fighter Management Pass Program would be a good test group, Brooks said.
When the servicemembers arrive, they are given a brief by a corpsman who tells them about the program. Anyone who gives a stool sample the following day will not only help in possibly creating a vaccine but also will walk away with $25 cash in hand.
For every patient that participates who has diarrhea, two normal control group participants who are coming from the same area are needed, according to Dr. Usha Bhat, the physician coordinator for the study. Bhat works for Naval Medical Research Unit-3, which is heading up the research out of Cairo, Egypt.
In addition to taking the stool sample, Bhat said blood and saliva are also taken. While some testing can occur on Camp As Sayliyah, Bhat said all specimens collected are stored in a freezer and sent to NAMRU-3 every two to three months for detailed testing.
“Cairo has virology there,” Bhat said. “If we possess a case of salmonella, we can’t know what type it is ... they can. Once Cairo tests and gets the type, they can then begin to develop a vaccine.”
While the stool, blood and saliva samples are important for testing reasons, Bhat said details on personal hygiene are also needed.
“Besides dietary habits, we ask them things like if they wash their hands before eating, after using the bathroom, or if they eat off base, so we can get an idea where the bug comes from,” Bhat said. Troops also are asked if diarrhea has affected their ability to work.
“We’ve seen troops that have been able to carry on and some that need [intravenous fluids] to rehydrate,” Bhat said.
The program began in mid-May and will run for one year, Bhat said. So far, a total of 55 servicemembers have taken part in the research.