New drug could prevent sepsis-related organ failure

Petri dish used for bacterial research

A new drug could prevent sepsis-related organ failure and death by restoring the health of a patient’s blood vessels.

Researchers from The University of Queensland and the Queensland Children’s Hospital (QCH) have successfully tested the first-in-class drug in mice.

Dr Mark Coulthard from UQ and the QCH’s Paediatric Intensive Care Unit said: “The reason for organ failure in sepsis patients is because the endothelial cells lining blood vessels become leaky, resulting in abnormal fluid shifts which ultimately shut down the blood supply.”

“We have identified markers for vascular damage in children admitted to hospital with fever and suspected infection, and the protein-signalling pathways associated with this in the cells. The drug we have developed targets these interactions, to restore the function of vascular endothelial cells.”

The drug was also tested on blood samples from 91 children admitted to hospital with fever and suspected infection, and the researchers noted changes in the biomarkers similar to those in the mouse studies.

Professor Trent Woodruff from UQ’s School of Biomedical Sciences said the new approach addressed an underlying cause of organ failure, while previous unsuccessful attempts had focused largely on the immune response.

“Sepsis is referred to as the ‘graveyard for the drug companies’ because despite the investment of significant resources and more than 100 clinical trials, there is still no effective treatment which modifies the host response,” he said. “A drug that targets and restores the vascular endothelium would potentially reduce sepsis-induced organ damage and death.”

Diana Spencer, Senior Digital Content Editor, DDW

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