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UK researchers report breakthrough in fighting killer superbug

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Treatment for the antibiotic resistant bacteria Klebsiella pneumoniae could lie within the bodies’ natural defences, according to researchers from the UK and Austria.

The recent discovery could radically change the approach to treating this common infection, said the researchers at Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Vienna.

“These are encouraging results and open new avenues of research to fight this killer infection”

Jose Bengoechea

They say they have discovered how immune cells arriving at the site of infection communicate and join forces to eradicate Klebsiella during lung infections.

Their findings, published in the journal Plos Pathogens, show that interferons, naturally produced in the human body, are fighting back against the bacterial Klebsiella infection.

As a result, future therapies for severe Klebsiella infections could target the immune system, rather than the pathogen itself, said the researchers at Queen’s University and Vienna University.

They highlighted that the bacteria Klebsiella pneumoniae caused a number of infections including sepsis, urinary tract infections and pneumonia.

As Klebsiella becomes more resistant to antibiotics, these common infections are becoming increasingly difficult to treat, they warned.

The perceived danger has led the World Health Organization recently to declare an urgent need for new therapeutics to be discovered for Klebsiella.

One of the lead study authors, Professor Jose Bengoechea from Belfast, said: “Klebsiella pneumoniae is of particular concern as it can cause infections such as bladder infections and pneumonia and has mortality rates of 25-60%.

“Antibiotics that were previously used to treat these infections are no longer effective, meaning treatment options for common illnesses are becoming increasingly limited,” he said.

Queen's University Belfast

UK researchers report breakthrough in fighting killer superbug

Source: Queen’s University Belfast

Jose Bengoechea

“Interferons are well known weapons found within our bodies that fight against infections caused by viruses,” noted Professor Bengoechea.

He said: “This pre-clinical study has found that interferons are being produced to fight against the infection caused by Klebsiella, which is fast becoming resistant to treatment by antibiotics.”

“These findings indicate that we can focus on therapy that manipulates interferons to fight Klebsiella, maximising our bodies’ natural resources to treat disease and reducing the need to use antibiotics for these infections,” he said.

“Further investigations are needed but these are encouraging results and open new avenues of research to fight this killer infection,” he added.

The publication of the research coincides with the WHO’s Antibiotic Awareness Week, which runs during 13-19 November, and is intended to raise awareness of the threat from antibiotic resistance.


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