A team of scientists from the US and Argentine have found a mechanism responsible for Sepsis, a disease caused by an unregulated response of the body to an infection that kills around 11 million people per year. In addition, they tested a drug to counteract its negative effects.
The World Health Organization defines sepsis as a life-threatening organ dysfunction caused by a dysregulated response of the body to an infection. It is estimated around 49 million cases and 11 million deaths per year from this disease.
But septicemia doesn’t affect everyone equally. Around 85% of cases and deaths worldwide occur in low-income countries and vulnerable sectors, where it is one of the leading causes of maternal and neonatal mortality.
“Many times, patients who are hospitalized end up having an infection by an in-hospital pathogen that leads to sepsis, although this was not the initial pathology for which they were admitted to the hospital. They are difficult bacteria that do not respond to common antibiotics,” explained the molecular biologist and doctor of immunology Santiago Méndez, who was part of the work.
The study was carried out jointly by a team from the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in the US and scientists from CONICET, from the Instituto de Biología y Medicina Experimental(IBYME) in Argentina, led by Dr. Gabriel Rabinovich.
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“When a cell is infected, it has to notify the immune system that it has a pathogen inside. The work asks what are the signals, molecules or proteins that the cell releases when it is infected and which will end up activating the immune system,” Mendez explained.
The research revealed that the protein that is most excreted is galectin -1 (GAL1) and it has a central role in the development of sepsis. And it also verified the efficacy of a monoclonal antibody developed at IBYME to neutralize this protein and attenuate the effects of sepsis.
“As part of the work, we tested a possible therapeutic tool, a monoclonal antibody whose function is to block the activity of galectin-1. We were able to observe that this treatment reduced the symptoms in animal models. In the future this could be transferred to the clinic,” concluded the doctor.