Discovery and development of antisecretory drugs for treating diarrheal diseases

Jay R. Thiagarajah, Eun A. Ko, Lukmanee Tradtrantip, Mark Donowitz, A. S. Verkman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Diarrheal diseases constitute a significant global health burden and are a major cause of childhood mortality and morbidity. Treatment of diarrheal disease has centered on the replacement of fluid and electrolyte losses using oral rehydration solutions. Although oral rehydration solutions have been highly successful, significant mortality and morbidity due to diarrheal disease remains. Secretory diarrheas, such as those caused by bacterial and viral enterotoxins, result from activation of cyclic nucleotide and/or Ca2+ signaling pathways in intestinal epithelial cells, enterocytes, which increase the permeability of Cl- channels at the lumen-facing membrane. Additionally, there is often a parallel reduction in intestinal Na+ absorption. Inhibition of enterocyte Cl- channels, including the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator and Ca2+-activated Cl- channels, represents an attractive strategy for antisecretory drug therapy. High-throughput screening of synthetic small-molecule collections has identified several classes of Cl- channel inhibitors that show efficacy in animal models of diarrhea but remain to be tested clinically. In addition, several natural product extracts with Cl- channel inhibition activity have shown efficacy in diarrhea models. However, a number of challenges remain to translate the promising bench science into clinically useful therapeutics, including efficiently targeting orally administered drugs to enterocytes during diarrhea, funding development costs, and carrying out informative clinical trials. Nonetheless, Cl- channel inhibitors may prove to be effective adjunctive therapy in a broad spectrum of clinical diarrheas, including acute infectious and drug-related diarrheas, short bowel syndrome, and congenital enteropathies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-209
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • CFTR
  • CaCC
  • Chloride Channels
  • Diarrhea
  • Rotavirus
  • Small Molecules

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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