Diarrhoeal disease remains a major health burden worldwide. Secretory diarrhoeas are caused by certain bacterial and viral infections, inflammatory processes, drugs and genetic disorders. Fluid secretion across the intestinal epithelium in secretory diarrhoeas involves multiple ion and solute transporters, as well as activation of cyclic nucleotide and Ca 2+ signalling pathways. In many secretory diarrhoeas, activation of Cl channels in the apical membrane of enterocytes, including the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator and Ca 2+ -activated Cl channels, increases fluid secretion, while inhibition of Na + transport reduces fluid absorption. Current treatment of diarrhoea includes replacement of fluid and electrolyte losses using oral rehydration solutions, and drugs targeting intestinal motility or fluid secretion. Therapeutics in the development pipeline target intestinal ion channels and transporters, regulatory proteins and cell surface receptors. This Review describes pathogenic mechanisms of secretory diarrhoea, current and emerging therapeutics, and the challenges in developing antidiarrhoeal therapeutics.
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