With deadly antibiotic-resistant superbugs on the rise, posing huge threats to public and global health, researchers and healthcare providers are scrambling to find new and effective treatment options. A recent study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine describes a new and unusual treatment approach to fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria and infectious diseases by removing antibodies from the bloodstream.
In their study, the researchers from the University of Birmingham and Newcastle University identified two patients, a 64-year-old male and a 69-year-old female, both diagnosed with severe bronchiectasis and chronic Pseudomonas aeruginosa lung infections. Bronchiectasis is a disease leading to the thickening of the airways (bronchi) and the accumulation of mucus in response to chronic inflammation or infection. Patients diagnosed with bronchiectasis often suffer from bacterial infections, such as those from Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a multi-drug resistant bacterium characterized by its advanced antibiotic resistant mechanisms and its association with serious diseases.
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The patients in the study had an excess of a specific antibody, which, in contrast to the typical disease-fighting and immune-boosting function of antibodies, prevented the patients’ immune systems from fighting the Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections. In a counterintuitive move, the researchers decided to remove this antibody from the patients’ bloodstream due to its inhibitory effect on immune system function. To accomplish this, the research team worked with kidney and immunology experts and implemented a procedure called plasmapheresis, a process that is, to an extent, similar to kidney dialysis. The patients’ blood plasma were removed, treated, and returned, and this process was repeated five times a week in order to remove the excess antibody. The patients responded positively to this treatment and reported a significant improvement in health, well-being, and mobility compared to their previous two years with the illness.
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According to Professor Ian Henderson of the University of Birmingham, the implications of this study are that patient well-being can be improved significantly by reducing the length of the patient’s hospital stay and the patient’s reliance on antibiotics. This novel treatment pathway may be applicable to other bacterial infections and offers new hope for fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
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