SEP 16, 2015 04:15 PM PDT

Antibiotics for Sickle Cell Disease?

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Evans
New research suggests that the gut microbiome plays a critical role in sickle cell disease (SCD). Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System, led by Paul Frenette, M.D., demonstrated that neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, become activated by gut microbes and stick to sickled red blood cells, causing vessel blockages.  

A sickle shaped red blood cell (top left) caused by SCD.
Sickle cell disease is most common among individuals from sub-saharan Africa, the Caribbean, and South and Central America.  There are around 100,000 cases in the United States, with the majority occurring among African American populations.  SCD is a genetic disorder that produces abnormal hemoglobin, causing red blood cells to be sickle-shaped.  The abnormally shaped red cells result in blood clots which cause pain and organ damage.

In 2002, Frenette reported that these blood clots often form when sickled red cells stick to neutrophils.  In their current study, published in Nature, Frenette showed that activated, pro-inflammatory neutrophils interact with sickled red cells.  Because neutrophils become activated in response to microbes, Frenette reasoned that sickled red cells might stick to neutrophils that were activated by the resident microbiome.

To test this idea, the team treated SCD mice with antibiotics to deplete their microbiome.  They found a reduction in the activated neutrophils that cause clots, as well as a reduction in SCD-associated liver damage.  They also found that children taking penicillin daily (SCD patients are at an increased risk for infections) had fewer activated, pro-inflammatory neutrophils than children not taking penicillin.  

These findings suggest that antibiotics could help prevent the pain, blood clots, and eventual organ damage associated with SCD.  This is good news for people with SCD, because such therapies could greatly improve their quality of life.



Sources: EurekAlert, Nature, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Wikipedia
 
About the Author
  • Kerry received a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
You May Also Like
MAY 16, 2018
Microbiology
MAY 16, 2018
The Structure of a Bacterial Protein Supercomplex is Revealed
Researchers isolated a supercomplex that acts as a kind of battery and helps generate energy for bacteria....
JUN 14, 2018
Microbiology
JUN 14, 2018
The Rise of Carbapenem Resistance
European scientists are warning clinicians about a dangerous group of microbes that resist the effects of drugs used as a last resort....
JUN 22, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
JUN 22, 2018
New Type of Photosynthesis is Discovered
This work will change textbooks, and may impact a variety of fields, including the search for extraterrestrial life....
JUN 30, 2018
Videos
JUN 30, 2018
First US Case of Bubonic Plague in 26 Years is Reported
It's not known exactly where the patient contracted the disease, but it was either Idaho or Oregon....
AUG 13, 2018
Microbiology
AUG 13, 2018
Insight Into the Origins of Junk DNA - From Koalas
The human genome isn't only genes. There's also long, repetitive sequences with an unknown function and origin....
AUG 13, 2018
Immunology
AUG 13, 2018
Silent Viruses Impact Microbe and Immune Cell Populations
Subclinical infections may alter the immune system and gut microbiota in the human host impacting how we respond to environmental stimuli like vaccines....
Loading Comments...