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The right image shows abundant S-nitrosylation (green) in human colitis compared with much less found in the left image of a normal colon.
Researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have discovered a molecular process by which the body can defend against the effects of Clostridium difficile infection (CDI), pointing the way to a promising new approach for treating an intestinal disease that has become more common, more severe and harder to cure in recent years.
In the U.S., several million people are infected each year, approximately double the incidence of a decade ago, mainly due to the emergence of a new, highly virulent strain of the bacteria that causes CDI. As a result of the study findings, published in the Aug. 21 online edition of the journal Nature Medicine, the researchers are preparing to launch clinical trials using their discovery as a new CDI therapeutic approach.
The team also included researchers from Case Western Reserve University, Tufts University and the Commonwealth Medical College. CDI is a bacterial infection that can cause diarrhea and more serious intestinal conditions, such as colitis, the inflammation of the colon. In the most severe cases, CDI can be fatal. It is most commonly acquired in hospitals by patients, particularly the elderly, who are being treated with antibiotics for another infection. Currently, one of two potent antibiotics is used to treat the infection, but up to 20 percent of patients experience a relapse and a return of symptoms within a few weeks.
"We are treating a disease caused by antibiotics with yet another antibiotic, which creates the conditions for re-infection from the same bacteria," says study co-author Dr. Charalabos Pothoulakis, director of UCLA's Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center and a professor of medicine in the division of digestive diseases. "Identification of new treatment modalities to treat this infection would be a major advance."