APR 16, 2018 2:56 PM PDT

Antimicrobials may Stop Sepsis in Pneumonia Patients

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that happens when the immune system’s response to an infection gets out of control and causes inflammation all over the body. Rapid treatment with antibiotics can help the sepsis patient, but it’s not always effective. New work has shown that treating specific immune cells with antimicrobials could be a way to prevent sepsis in people that are affected by pneumonia. The study, which was reported in Nature Microbiology, has shown that the bacterium that causes pneumonia uses cells of the immune system to multiply, so the infection gains a foothold in the body.

This is an image of a cluster of pneumococcal cells replicating. / Credit: University of Leicester

Led by Professor Marco Oggioni, investigators determined that after initial infection, a bacterium called Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) uses a specific kind of immune cell, a type of splenic macrophage, to replicate before it launches an invasive illness that can be fatal.

Because the bacterium reproduces inside of this immune cell, it doesn’t get killed by most drugs or by other cells from the immune system.

"Understanding infections is important in determining how best to treat an infection," noted Oggioni, of the University of Leicester's Department of Genetics and Genome Biology. "Our work shows that we can treat potentially deadly infections more effectively using antibiotics that are already available.

The research has also shown that when antimicrobial treatments target specifically this mechanism of replication inside of cells, pneumococcal septicemia, which is common in many pneumonia patients, can be stopped. Pneumonia can cause death and is a serious risk in some groups individuals, like the elderly.

"By discovering the mechanism of how and where bacteria initiate disease, we think we can give a strong message to the medical community to stimulate the revision of currently used therapies and this could potentially result in a reduction of disease burden and mortality in the UK and elsewhere," added Oggioni, who is also an honorary consultant biologist at Leicester's Hospitals.

The researchers used a variety of different models in their experiments and utilized confocal microscopy to observe and track immune cells and the bacteria that were infecting them. A totally new model was also developed, in which surplus pig spleens were obtained from agriculture, and used in the study to mimic an infection in a person, while sparing live animals from the experiment.

Learn more about sepsis from the video.


Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via University of Leicester, CDC, Nature Microbiology

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
SEP 09, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Why Liver Gene Therapies Have Not Worked & How to Improve Them
SEP 09, 2020
Why Liver Gene Therapies Have Not Worked & How to Improve Them
Diseases that are caused by errors in a gene might be cured if we could correct those errors, or genetic mutations.
SEP 11, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
A Better Understanding of Telomere Length Throughout the Body
SEP 11, 2020
A Better Understanding of Telomere Length Throughout the Body
Telomeres cap the ends of chromosomes. They work to protect the chromosomes from degradation, and are known to get short ...
SEP 14, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Learning More About How Cells Use Phase Separation
SEP 14, 2020
Learning More About How Cells Use Phase Separation
It was once thought that cellular machines called organelles, which are structures bound by membranes, directed most of ...
OCT 04, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Why the Effects of a Drug Depend on Who Takes It
OCT 04, 2020
Why the Effects of a Drug Depend on Who Takes It
Many drugs can have a wide range of impacts on the patients that take them; doctors often have to adjust a person's dosa ...
OCT 09, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Proteins Have an Orientation in Plant Cells
OCT 09, 2020
Proteins Have an Orientation in Plant Cells
Just like animals, plants are made of cells that are full of proteins. The proteins in plant cells are often only found ...
OCT 22, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
How a Gene Variant Raises the Risk of Multiple Sclerosis
OCT 22, 2020
How a Gene Variant Raises the Risk of Multiple Sclerosis
Now that sequencing the whole human genome is easier, faster, and cheaper than it used to be, scientists have been able ...
Loading Comments...