Researchers tackle deadly blood infections

(instrumental music) – [Narrator] Blood stream
infections, or sepsis, can be difficult to diagnosis and treat. And antibiotics appear to
be becoming less reliable in managing some of them. The University of Michigan Health System is utilizing a multidisciplinary approach to learn better ways to
diagnose and treat sepsis. Blood stream infections are infections that typically begin in
a local part of the body, say in the bladder or
in the skin or the lung, and then the bacteria that
caused those infections managed to, sort of, break
free from the usual defenses and make it into the bloodstream. And that gives the bacteria
an opportunity to go, essentially anywhere it wants. And once it’s in the
bloodstream it can travel to distant organs, it
can travel to the brain, it can travel to the heart. And it’s basically, sort
of, a horse out of the barn. Bloodstream infections are a problem because most of the defenses
that your body has built up to fight infections, are defenses that were built
against things like splinters and wound infections, and
you know, sore throats, and bladder infections, things like that. They’re defenses that
were built to go somewhere to do a thing. They’re a local defense. And the problem with bloodstream
infections is that it, when a bacteria is allowed to go anywhere, it has an opportunity
to rewrite the rules. And now defenses that were
local and designed to be local are suddenly being deployed everywhere. The standard treatment
for bacterial infections of the bloodstream or
elsewhere, are antibiotics. And what’s clear from the last 50 years, and antibiotics have
really only been around for about 50 years, is that they’re becoming
less and less reliable for taking care of infections. And so what we’re looking for, are ways of treating the disease and helping along the
host defense in such a way that doesn’t require antibiotics. And one of the ways that
we’re looking to do that, is we’re looking to find a
strategy to improve the ability of the bloodstream to
filter these things out. How can you get them out of
the bloodstream even faster? Are there mechanical
tricks that you can play on the bacterium that
don’t require antibiotics that will allow the body to grab it, pull it out of the bloodstream and resolve the infection faster. One of the things we’re
trying to understand are the rules for how bacteria
traffic in the bloodstream, and if you understand the
timing of those events you might be able to better understand how best to detect the
bloodstream infection when it’s present. That’s the first issue. The second thing that we’re working on, are looking for ways to
just fundamentally change the rules of engagement between
the bacteria and the host. There are mechanical features at play, in terms of getting these
bacteria and flowing blood out. If we can change the
mechanics of that event, then we can potentially have
a therapy that the bacteria doesn’t really have an
opportunity to defend against. That it doesn’t have the ability to develop a resistance against, and potentially can be a useful therapy. (instrumental music)

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