UI researchers uncover finding that may help treat deadly infect - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UI researchers uncover finding that may help treat deadly infection

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Endocarditis is known as the most severe complication of a staph bacteria infection in the bloodstream.

Every year the heart condition kills half of the people infected, some 20,000 people.

Yet researchers have known little about how to treat it.

"They've been monitoring it for 50 years and there's been no reduction in severity or number of deaths,"said Patrick Schlievert, Ph.D, UI professor and chair of microbiology at the UI Carver College of Medicine.

Now researchers think they have made a key discovery.

A study conducted in a University of Iowa lab identified toxins- called superantigens- as critical to allowing bacteria to spread through the bloodstream and into the body's organs.

"That toxin messes up the immune system. It prevents the immune system from functioning normally," Schlievert said.

The new knowledge opens the door to treatment options.

Researchers say an already available vaccine has shown to be effective in fighting superantigens.

"Commercially available there are antibodies that neutralize this toxin," Schlievert said.

A clinical trial will have to be conducted before doctors put the vaccine to use.

The research was funded in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

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