Immune Booster Halts Lethal Sepsis

A breakthrough study done at the University of Leicester in the UK has shown that low dose injections of artificial properdin provide substantial protection against septic diseases in mice. The paper was published on March 24th 2014 in the online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A release from the university quotes Professor Wilhelm Schwaeble as saying, "I am really excited about this landmark discovery. We demonstrate that boosting the innate immune system can have a significant impact on the body's ability to defend itself against life-threatening infections."   

The researchers found that a booster of the innate immune defense has a profound and immediate effect on the body's ability to clear infections, even when the bacteria have reached the bloodstream.

The study, funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), found artificially produced properdin (Pn) to be 100 times more efficient at fighting infection than naturally occurring properdin, offering significant protection in mice against Streptococcus pneumoniae and Neisseria meningitidis infections.

Streptococcus pneumoniaeis the leading cause of pneumonia and a major cause of septicemia and meningitis, responsible for approximately 1.2 million deaths per year globally. Neisseria meningitidis causes epidemic bacterial meningitis and septicemia with a high mortality in children and young adults.

An additional benefit of this treatment is that it was shown to effectively neutralize the harmful toxins released by bacteria when they are destroyed. There is a recognized problem with current treatments which can kill bacteria but do not combat the effects of toxic substances inside or released from bacteria, which often prove more harmful than the bacteria itself.

The artificial properdin was shown to kill bacteria by making them pop like balloons in mouse with massive numbers of meningitis bacteria being directly destroyed following Pn treatment. The team also tested this method on human blood in the lab where the technique was found to have a similar combative effect.

Professor Schwaeble added: "What is especially exciting is that the infected mice continued to look healthy and normal after Pn treatment. We feared that the release of meningococcal debris into the bloodstream as a consequence of this treatment could prove to be fatal, however, the fact that treated mice looked healthy after infection indicates that the Pn also has a neutralizing effect on the potentially toxic bacterial debris released. Next, we will expand our research to investigate other bacterial strains to assess which infectious diseases can be most effectively treated by Pn injections. We are also preparing the human Pn for toxicological studies and hope to see the first in-human trials within the next five years." 

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