Possible Substitute for Antibiotics

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We hear on the news everyday now about the “super bugs” that antibiotics are not able to kill. Infections still continue to threaten our health.  Pathogenic organisms outsmart available therapies.  Microbial versatility is matched by the host immune system, which evolves in dialogue with the microbes.  Therapies that enhance beneficial effects of the immune response can represent a promising but under-explored therapeutic alternative to antibiotics.

Strengthen The Good Anti-bacterial Defense

A paper recently published a new therapeutic target for the treatment of bacterial infections that regulates the immune response.  An “off” switch for destructive inflammation in infected kidneys has been found by researchers at Lund University in Sweden.  This does not impair the anti-bacterial defense.  Now we need to find how to strengthen the good antibacterial defense without causing infection, leading to tissue destruction and even organ failure.  Inflammation goes along with most infections and fever and pain are the price to pay for an effective defense.  We need to avoid the exaggerated immune response to severe infections that can lead to tissue destruction and even organ failure.

Manoj Puthia, researcher at Lund University in Sweden stated that specific transcription factors regulate innate immune responses to bacterial infection and the outcome of infection can be beneficial or destructive.  They have also identified genetic variants in susceptible patients that can support their concept.

They were surprised to find that IRF-3 and IRF-7 control different facets of the immune response to kidney infection, which determines the susceptibility to acute pyelonephritis when using mice lacking closely related transcription factors IRF-3 or IRF-7. (IRF=Interferon Regulatory Factor) Those mice lacking IRF-3 became very ill while those with IRF-7 were protected from infection and chronic inflammation.  Therefore, perhaps that suppression of IRF-7 might be beneficial.  They then used siRNA therapy to silence IRF-7 and were able to demonstrate protection in susceptible mice.

Infections remain the major cause of the deaths worldwide but especially in the developing and poorly developed areas.  

Many antibiotics have greatly reduced illness and mortality but many pathogens have developed resistance and we are facing a global crisis. Defining why the immune system is not protecting certain patients and learn ways to replenish these defects by boosting the “good” immune response is something we still need to define.  Finding new ways that can effectively treat infections would greatly benefit everyone.  

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