Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 16, 2024

New life-saving drug should be approved

By MEGAN CRANTS | February 14, 2013

Most people have heard of staph infections, but not many realize how serious they can be. The staphylococcus bacteria that cause the infection can be commonly found on the human body and generally do not cause any serious problems. The infections can quickly turn fatal, however, if the bacteria enter the bloodstream. This causes bacteremia, otherwise known as blood poisoning. The bacteria can then travel through the blood to infect internal organs, bones, muscles and surgical implants.

My mother, who recently had hip surgery, struggled with this serious situation. The scar she received from her surgery became infected and the bacteria soaked into her bloodstream. She became lightheaded, extremely and consistently feverish, and could not take any medication to soothe her post-surgery pain because her blood pressure dropped to a dangerously low level.

She started getting heart murmurs and they did not know if she would make it through the experience. She was eventually released from the hospital after about a week, but shortly after had another close call. A blood clot got lodged in her lungs, forcing her to return to the emergency room choking and breathless. The clot was then dislodged into her stomach, but it was yet another close call. Even now after being released from the hospital, she has to have a nurse come to her house every week to change out IV medication to help her recover and she is fatigued and nauseous.

The bacteremia probably occurred because she had a weakened immune system from surgery, but this disease and other life-threatening ailments caused by staph infections, such as toxic shock syndrome, are becoming more common in healthy people. Toxic shock syndrome, which results from the release of toxins from certain strains of staph, develops suddenly to cause fever, nausea, rashes, confusion, muscle aches and seizures.

In addition to this increasing prevalence, many staph infections have stopped responding to common antibiotics, making them much harder to treat. My mother had to try numerous different antibiotics over the course of several days because none of them was treating the infection and it kept growing regardless of pharmaceutical intervention.

A recent NYU School of Medicine study on maraviroc, an HIV drug, suggests that the drug can potentially be used to treat staphylococcus aureus, a deadly strain of staph that puts hundreds of thousands of people in the hospital every year.

This drug works by attaching to a receptor, the CCR5, which is located on immune T cells. HIV enters the T cells through this CCR5 where it begins to replicate. Researchers have now determined that some strains of staph actually target and destroy cells with CCR5, which leads to the stimulation of an immune response.

With maraviroc, however, the noxious effects of the bacterium toxins were blocked. The goal is ultimately to strengthen the immune system, making sure it has a better chance to control the staph infection and keep the body healthy and protected. The drug is still only being used in clinical trials with staph-infected mice, but maraviroc should be approved for humans soon so that patients like my mother will have an easier time dealing with the infection.

Megan Crants is a junior Writing Seminars and Cognitive Science double major from Nashville, Tenn. She is the science columnist for TheNews-Letter.

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