Antimicrobial therapy can prevent sepsis in pneumonia patients

April 16, 2018

Antimicrobial therapy targeting specific cells in the immune system could prevent sepsis and life-threatening disease in people suffering from pneumonia, new research led by the University of Leicester has shown.

An antimicrobial therapy kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, or protozoans.

The research, published in Nature Microbiology, identifies how the bacterium which causes pneumonia replicates within our immune system during the initial stages of infection.

A team of researchers led by Professor Marco Oggioni from the University of Leicester's Department of Genetics and Genome Biology has found that shortly after initial infection, the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) replicates within a certain subset of immune cells in our bodies - a subset of splenic macrophages - before causing invasive and often fatal disease.

This intracellular replication protects the bacterium from being killed by other immune cells and also from the activity of the most commonly used antibiotics, including those recommended for community acquired pneumonia in the UK.

The research also shows that antimicrobial therapy, specifically targeted to abort this phase of intracellular replication, can prevent the occurrence of pneumococcal septicaemia, which is common in many patients suffering from pneumonia.

Pneumonia is one of the leading causes of mortality by infectious disease and is more common in certain at-risk groups of people, such as the very young or the elderly. "Understanding infections is important in determining how best to treat an infection," says Professor Marco Oggioni, who is also an honorary consultant biologist at Leicester's Hospitals. "Our work shows that we can treat potentially deadly infections more effectively using antibiotics that are already available.

"By discovering the mechanism of how and where bacteria initiate disease, we think we can give a strong message to the medical community to stimulate the revision of currently used therapies and this could potentially result in a reduction of disease burden and mortality in the UK and elsewhere."

The team conducted its experiments on a variety of different organisms using confocal microscopy. This allowed them to tag and visualise different immune cells as well as the infecting bacteria.

As part of this work the team also developed a new model using the surplus spleens of pigs processed for food production.

This allowed for them to study infection in a model highly related to humans but without the need to infect a living animal.
-end-
The research, which was funded as part of a collaboration with the University of Oxford, involved Professor Peter Andrew from the University of Leicester's Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation and Professor Chris Bayliss from the University of Leicester's Department of Genetics and Genome Biology, the hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgeon Ashley Dennison from Leicester's Hospitals, the immunologist Luisa Martinez-Pomares from the University of Nottingham and the expert in bacterial pathogenesis Richard Moxon from the University of Oxford.

The study was funded through a Medical Research Council grant: MR/M003078/1.

The paper, ''Intracellular replication of Streptococcus pneumoniae inside splenic macrophages serves as a reservoir for septicaemia' will be published in the journal Nature Microbiology and will be available here after embargo lifts: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41564-018-0147-1

Image of a cluster of pneumococcal cells replicating available here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/2k3whou0rijeey2/AABM_ft-0DWqeOVrfxlAIqRCa?dl=0

University of Leicester

Related Immune System Articles from Brightsurf:

How the immune system remembers viruses
For a person to acquire immunity to a disease, T cells must develop into memory cells after contact with the pathogen.

How does the immune system develop in the first days of life?
Researchers highlight the anti-inflammatory response taking place after birth and designed to shield the newborn from infection.

Memory training for the immune system
The immune system will memorize the pathogen after an infection and can therefore react promptly after reinfection with the same pathogen.

Immune system may have another job -- combatting depression
An inflammatory autoimmune response within the central nervous system similar to one linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) has also been found in the spinal fluid of healthy people, according to a new Yale-led study comparing immune system cells in the spinal fluid of MS patients and healthy subjects.

COVID-19: Immune system derails
Contrary to what has been generally assumed so far, a severe course of COVID-19 does not solely result in a strong immune reaction - rather, the immune response is caught in a continuous loop of activation and inhibition.

Immune cell steroids help tumours suppress the immune system, offering new drug targets
Tumours found to evade the immune system by telling immune cells to produce immunosuppressive steroids.

Immune system -- Knocked off balance
Instead of protecting us, the immune system can sometimes go awry, as in the case of autoimmune diseases and allergies.

Too much salt weakens the immune system
A high-salt diet is not only bad for one's blood pressure, but also for the immune system.

Parkinson's and the immune system
Mutations in the Parkin gene are a common cause of hereditary forms of Parkinson's disease.

How an immune system regulator shifts the balance of immune cells
Researchers have provided new insight on the role of cyclic AMP (cAMP) in regulating the immune response.

Read More: Immune System News and Immune System Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.