Trudeau Institute faculty member Stephen T. Smiley, Ph.D., has been awarded a grant to evaluate new strategies for improving patient survival after a bacterial infection.
If successful, his strategy would work against many types of serious infections that spread throughout the body, including those caused by deadly weaponized or antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The research will be funded by a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), via the Northeast Biodefense Center. The studies will advance NIAID goals by defining basic principles of immunity while advancing a new, broadly applicable paradigm for the treatment of life-threatening bacterial infections.
The research project
Supplying immune defense therapeutically, by injecting patients with protective antibodies, can be an effective treatment for life-threatening infections.This ‘immunotherapy’ may be the best treatment option for infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. However, it can be difficult, and costly, to deliver sufficiently high quantities of antibodies to human patients. Moreover, antibodies often fail to stop bacterial infections immediately. Rather, they typically slow bacterial growth, thus providing time for the patient’s immune system to ramp up and clear the infection.
Given the relatively slow clearance of bacterial infections by immunotherapy, co-treatments that suppress damage caused by infections should synergize with immunotherapy to improve overall survival. Much of the damage caused by bacterial infections is caused by sepsis, an infection-induced syndrome characterized by excessive inflammation and dysregulated coagulation. Despite its potential to cause damage, Dr. Smiley’s prior studies establish that coagulation also can be essential for immune defense against bacteria. This observation suggests that sepsis therapeutics should strive to control, but not completely prevent, coagulation.
This new funding from the Northeast Biodefense Center will help Dr. Smiley test the hypothesis that treatments that reduce coagulation will synergize with low-dose immunotherapy to improve survival during bacterial infection.