Primary and Long-Term Illness Related to E. coli O157 Costs $403.9 Million per Year in Canada

BELLEVILLE, ON, Dec. 4, 2013 /CNW/ - Bioniche Life Sciences Inc. (TSX: BNC) (ASX: BNC), a research-based, technology-driven Canadian biopharmaceutical company, today announced that a study approved for publication in the Journal of Food Protection demonstrates that Verotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC) results in a cost of $403.9 million per year in Canada related to primary infections and long-term health outcomes. More than 93% of the VTEC infections are caused by the O157 strain of E. coli, and Bioniche One Health has developed a cattle vaccine to reduce the burden of this pathogen.

"Reduction of E. coli O157 shedding by cattle offers an opportunity to significantly reduce public health risk," said Dr. Paul Sockett, an expert in foodborne diseases, the former Director of the Foodborne, Waterborne and Zoonotic Infections Division of the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the principal author of the study. "Four key public sectors are impacted by concerns relating to the severity of human illness and the prevalence of VTEC infection in cattle and other ruminants: (i) public health, (ii) agriculture, (iii) food processing and retail, and (iv) national and local government organizations responsible for acting on reports of human illness or animal or product contamination." Dr. Sockett presented the study findings at the Public Health Ontario Vaccine Sciences Symposium 2013 in Toronto, Ontario today.

The authors of the study used a cost of illness methodology to delineate and quantify the costs associated with VTEC infection in Canada. The authors focused on medical costs and productivity losses, which were aggregated to give a total cost. Historical notifiable disease data (the number of laboratory confirmed cases reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada) was utilized in the analysis Only a fraction of VTEC cases are captured by disease surveillance systems, leaving uncertainty around the exact number of cases within the community. This was addressed in the study using an under-reporting factor. The study authors note that, because the costs exclude other public and private sector costs, the actual costs to society of VTEC infection are much higher.

The research comments on the distribution of human VTEC infection cases in Canada, whereby the highest rates of human infection have been associated with proximity to high densities of cattle.  Alberta public health authorities have identified a trend of higher incidence of human E. coli O157 infection in that province, with incidence as high as 29.1 cases per 100,000 population in south-central Alberta compared with an average of 2.8 per 100,000 for Canada during the same year.

When considering the costs of implementing control and/or prevention interventions versus the costs of disease over a longer period of time, the study authors suggest that, if the current situation were to remain unchanged over the next 5 or 10 years, the discounted present value of those future costs would be approximately $1.8 to $2.09 billion and $3.2 to $3.9 billion for five and 10 years, respectively.

The study authors expect that the information provided by the study will contribute to improved assessment of alternative approaches to reducing or preventing human VTEC infection, including cattle vaccines (on their own or with other interventions).

About E. coli O157

Ruminants, primarily cattle, are considered to be the primary carriers of VTEC O157. This bacterium can cause severe illness and can even be fatal. Spread of the bacteria to humans can be indirect or through direct contact with infected animals and their manure (environment). For example, when ingested by humans from unpasteurized milk, contaminated uncooked meat, vegetables, other food products, water, or at visitor open farms or petting zoos, etc. Human exposure and infection with E. coli O157 can result in serious health consequences, including abdominal pain and severe bloody diarrhea. In severe cases, kidney damage can occur and progress to serious complications and even death. Lingering, long-term medical conditions can persist in individuals exposed to the bacterium. These include post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome (PI-IBS), reduced kidney function, diabetes, hypertension and reactive arthritis. E. coli O157 is commonly carried by animals and ruminants but will cause the animals to show no signs of infection even though there is potential for spread of E. coli O157 in their feces.

An estimated 100,000 cases of human infection with the E. coli O157 organism are reported each year in North America. Two to seven per cent of those people develop haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), a disease characterized by kidney failure. Five percent of HUS patients die, many of them children and senior citizens, whose kidneys are more sensitive to damage.

About Bioniche One Health

Bioniche One Health is responsible for researching, developing, manufacturing and marketing veterinary biopharmaceutical products to improve public health and the environment. The leading initiative for this division has been the development and commercialization of a cattle vaccine to reduce the spread of the E. coli O157 bacterium, which can be deadly to humans. The vaccine - Econiche® - is fully registered in Canada, is approved for importation into Australia, has received Special Treatment Certificate authorization for UK veterinary surgeons to use on visitor open farms, and has been granted an import permit for use on cattle farms in Sweden.

About Bioniche Life Sciences Inc.

Bioniche Life Sciences Inc. is a research-based, technology-driven Canadian biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development, manufacturing, and marketing of proprietary and innovative products for human and animal health markets worldwide. The fully-integrated company employs more than 200 skilled personnel and has three operating divisions: Human Health, Animal Health, and One Health. The Company's primary goal is to develop and commercialize products that advance human or animal health and increase shareholder value.

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Except for historical information, this news release may contain forward-looking statements that reflect the Company's current expectation regarding future events. These forward-looking statements involve risk and uncertainties, which may cause, but are not limited to, changing market conditions, the successful and timely completion of clinical studies, the establishment of corporate alliances, the impact of competitive products and pricing, new product development, uncertainties related to the regulatory approval process, and other risks detailed from time to time in the Company's ongoing quarterly and annual reporting.

SOURCE: Bioniche Life Sciences Inc.

For further information:

Jennifer Shea, Vice-President, Communications, Investor & Government Relations
Bioniche Life Sciences Inc.
Telephone: (613) 966-8058; from Australia: 0011 1 613-966-8058
Cell: (613) 391-2097; from Australia: 0011 1 613-391-2097

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