The study found the approach of removing antibodies from the bloodstream of affected patients reduced the effects of serious infections, the number of days in hospital and the use of antibiotics.
In the study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the team used a process similar to kidney dialysis on two patients.
The scientists worked with kidney and immunology experts to use a technique known as plasmapheresis, involving the removal, treatment, and return of blood plasma.
Antibodies from donated blood was transfused into the patient. This treatment restored the ability for the patients’ blood to kill their infecting pseudomonas aeruginosa. This process was done five times in a week then the treatment stopped.
Dr Tony De Soyza, senior lecturer at Newcastle University and bronchiectasis service lead at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said the patients had a good response to the treatment.
He said: “This is an exciting development for some of those with pseudomonas aeruginosa as the treatment we used restored the ability for the patients’ blood to kill their bacterial infection.
“This shows that we can significantly improve the wellbeing of patients, preventing the need for long hospital stays.”
Serious lung infection
Bronchiectasis is a disease that leads to permanent enlargement of the airways in the lung and affects more than 300,000 patients in the UK.
Chronic pseudomonas aeruginosa lung infections commonly occur in patients suffering from bronchiectasis. It is a bacterium that can cause disease and is known to be resistant to antibiotics.
Both patients who took part in the explorative treatment reported a rapid improvement in health and wellbeing, greater independence and improved mobility.
Professor Ian Henderson, Director of the Institute of Microbiology and Infection at the University of Birmingham, who tested the patients samples, said: “These patients had an excess of a particular antibody in the bloodstream.
“In contrast to the protective effect normally associated with antibodies, in these patients the antibody stopped the immune system killing the pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterium and this worsened the patients’ lung disease.
“Perhaps counter-intuitively, we decided to remove this antibody from the bloodstream and the outcomes were wholly positive.”
It is thought this treatment may be widely applicable to other bacterial infections and offers hope for the treatment of some antibiotic resistant infections.
The next step is to do longer term studies to investigate whether an earlier intervention, with slightly less aggressive therapies, could help prevent pseudomonas aeruginosa progression in patients.
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