Ben Gurion University of the Negev Researchers Find


A1ATCan a new use for an established drug make an even greater impact than the current one? Some researchers in Israel think so.

Scientists at Ben Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Beershaba, Israel, have found that the anti-inflammatory drug alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT), now used to treat type 1 diabetes and various inflammatory problems, may prevent severe infections in people with compromised immune systems.

Dr. Eli C. Lewis and colleagues at BGU wanted to determine whether AAT could stop serious infections that do not respond to currently available antibiotics. Their study, reported in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, examined the effectiveness of AAT treatment in halting bacterial colonization and spread. Bacterial infections can rapidly become severe and cause sepsis, multiple organ dysfunction and death, even with available antibiotics.

Mice were injected with strains of dangerous bacteria and infectious material. The team originally wanted to ensure that AAT would not in fact worsen infections. However, the bacteria were, instead, virtually wiped out in 24 hours. “There were barely enough bacteria left to grow colonies on a plate,” the team noted.

The study concluded that human AAT “reduces the bacterial burden after infection.” Further, it determined that because human AAT “does not block bacterial growth in culture, its effects might rely on host immune cell modulation.” According to the article, “These outcomes suggest that prolonged human AAT treatment in patients without human AAT deficiency is safe. Additionally, human AAT treatment may be considered a preemptive therapeutic measure for individuals who are at risk for bacterial infections.”

As Dr. Lewis said, “Imagine if weak patients received AAT prior to prolonged hospitalization in bacteria-rich hospital facilities. Considering the current frustration with antibiotic development rates compared to bacterial resistance rates, the clinical implications are immense. There is significant demand for a safe, pre-emptive, readily accessible application.”

The molecule AAT is naturally produced in the human liver, particularly during inflammatory bouts. It has been known to reduce excessive inflammation and preserve injured tissues.Dr. Lewis’ team will now study the biochemical dynamics that make AAT work.
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