New method can kill chronic infections – University of Copenhagen

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14 June 2016

New method can kill chronic infections

Bacteria have various strategies for surviving both the immune system and antibiotics in animals as well as humans. Among other strategies, bacteria can slow down their metabolism and enter into hibernation, which enables them to avoid attacks by both antibiotics and the immune system. Once the bacteria come out of hibernation, they continue to cause infections and damage to the body – and this can go on for years. At the same time, the bacteria are untraceable when using traditional diagnostic tests, which makes it hard to access whether the infection is in fact gone or whether the bacteria are still there, but inactive.

Now, however, a group of researchers headed by Professor Anders Miki Bojesen from the University of Copenhagen have developed a method to “wake” the bacteria so they can be diagnosed and treated.

The method was developed on horses with chronic infections causing infertility, however, the principle can also be transferred to humans, according to Professor Anders Miki Bojesen.

“Humans can develop a number of chronic infections due to, among other things, hibernating bacteria in, for example, our bones and heart valves, and currently, we are neither able to diagnose nor treat these infections. Chronically infected patients are some of the most costly patients for our health services and right now a solution to this problem is lacking. Which is why it’s very important that we have located a method that enable us to wake the hibernating bacteria, as this allows us to get one step closer to treating and diagnosing the infections,” says Anders Miki Bojesen, Professor at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen.

Growth media will “wake” the bacteria

The researchers behind this new study have succeeded in developing a growth media to wake the streptococcus bacteria found in the womb of mares, causing both chronic infection and infertility. By waking the bacteria, the researchers were able to effectively treat the mares with antibiotics thus killing the infection and restoring their fertility.

“The growth media was developed specifically for this streptococcus infection, however, the principle behind the method is transferable to other chronic bacterial infections in animals as well as humans. And therefore, our next step is developing growth media for other bacterial infections,” Anders Mike Bojesen concludes.

The research article was published in the journal, Veterinary Microbiology.

Read the research article.