NEWS

Dressing could cut the use of antibiotics

A medical dressing that changes colour when it detects infection could cut the unnecessary use of antibiotics, say scientists at Bath University, according to the BBC news.

It works by releasing fluorescent dye from tiny capsules when toxins are given out by bacteria in a wound.

This allows doctors to identify bacterial infections and treat them more quickly, particularly in children with burns.

Researchers said it could help to save lives. Children with burn wounds are particularly susceptible to bacterial infections because of their immature immune systems.

These infections can slow the healing of wounds, leading to longer stays in hospital and sometimes permanent scarring. In severe cases, infections can kill.

Major health concern

Doctors find it very difficult to diagnose infections quickly and easily without removing the dressing, which can be painful and create more scarring.

Because of this, antibiotics are often prescribed as a precaution before the infection is confirmed.

However, treatment with antibiotics when there is no infection can lead to bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics – and antibiotic resistance is a major health concern.

Dr Toby Jenkins, reader in biophysical chemistry at Bath, leading the project, said “it could really help to save lives.”

The team has been awarded almost £1m by the Medical Research Council to test the responsiveness of the prototype dressing to samples taken from the wounds of burns victims,.

New kind of ‘designer’ immune cells clear baby’s leukemia

A baby whom doctors thought almost certain to die has been cleared of a previously incurable leukemia in the first human use of an “off-the-shelf” cell therapy from Cellectis that creates designer immune cells.

One-year-old Layla had run out of all other treatment options when doctors at Britain’s Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) gave her the highly experimental, genetically edited cells in a tiny 1-milliliter intravenous infusion.

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Baby Layla at Britain’s Great Ormond Street Hospital

Two months later, she was cancer-free and she is now home from hospital, the doctors said at a briefing about her case in London on Wednesday.

“Her leukemia was so aggressive that such a response is almost a miracle,” said Paul Veys, a professor and director of bone marrow transplant at GOSH who led the team treating Layla.

“As this was the first time that the treatment had been used, we didn’t know if or when it would work, so we were over the moon when it did.”

The gene-edited cell treatment was prepared by scientists at GOSH and University College London (UCL) together with the French biotech firm Cellectis, which is now funding full clinical trials of the therapy due to start next year.

It is designed to work by adding new genes to healthy donated immune cells known as T-cells, which arm them against leukemia.

Using a gene-editing technology called TALEN, which acts as “molecular scissors,” specific genes are then cut to make the T-cells behave in two specific ways: Firstly, they are rendered invisible to a powerful leukaemia drug that would usually kill them and secondly they are reprogrammed to only target and fight against leukemia cells.

Other drugmakers including Novartis, Juno Therapeutics and Kite Pharma have tested genetically modified T-cells extracted from an individual patient. However, this is the first time cells from a healthy donor have been used in a process could lead to a ready off-the-shelf supply for use in multiple patients.

Some scientists have questioned Cellectis’ approach because of potential problems with patients rejecting foreign cells.

But the French biotech, working with the U.S. giant Pfizer, as well as Novartis believes its method is faster and cheaper than creating single patient-specific gene therapies.


Sierra Leone declared free of Ebola

Sierra Leone has officially been declared free of Ebola by the World Health Organization (WHO).

EbolaThousands of people took to the streets of the capital, Freetown, at the stroke of midnight – marking 42 days without a single declared case of the disease.

There were further cheers when the WHO local representative made the official announcement later this week.

The outbreak killed almost 4,000 people in Sierra Leone over the past 18 months.

ebola-posterMany gathered around a giant cotton tree in the centre of the city. Some lit candles in memory of the victims, while others danced with joy.

Dr Oliver Johnson, from the King’s Sierra Leone partnership, worked at an Ebola clinic in Freetown, and has strong links with medical professionals there.

“[For] everyone I’ve spoken to, there’s a sense of relief that this might finally be over and maybe a bit of disbelief that after so many false starts, or false ends, we might finally be there,” he told the BBC.

A country is considered free of human-to-human transmission once two 21-day incubation periods have passed since the last known case tested negative for a second time.


Antibiotics crisis bigger than AIDS, warns WHO

antibioticsCommon infections and minor scratches could soon kill because antibiotics are becoming useless against new superbugs, the World Health Organisation has warned. A child’s scratched knee from falling off their bike, common bladder infections among the elderly in care homes and routine surgery to replace broken hips could all become fatal, the WHO said.

The report also warned that the crisis is bigger and more urgent than the AIDS epidemic of the Eighties.

UK experts said the “era of safe medicine is coming to an end” and government funds must be pumped into the production of new drugs.

In the foreword to the report Dr Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Security, wrote: “A post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can kill, far from being an apocalyptic fantasy, is instead a very real possibility for the 21st century.”

He said: “Unless we take significant actions to improve efforts to prevent infections and also change how we produce, prescribe and use antibiotics, the world will lose more and more of these global public health goods and the implications will be devastating.”

He said modern medicine, from treatment of urinary tract infections and pneumonia in babies to chemotherapy and kidney dialysis, was under threat. “This is not an abstract problem. We have a big problem now and it is going to get bigger. What do we do when we have infections we cannot treat or when we lose the ability to protect people when having chemotherapy? I think there are very concrete implications,” he said.

Dr Danilo Lo Fo Wong, Senior Adviser for Antimicrobial Resistance at WHO Europe, told The Daily Telegraph: “A child falling off their bike and developing a fatal infection would be a freak occurrence in the UK but that is where we are heading.

jackson_open“Antibiotic resistance travels with infectious diseases and infectious diseases travel around the world.”

Lord Darzi, the surgeon and former health minister, described the situation as a “global threat” but warned little is being done to tackle it.

Writing for telegraph.co.uk, he said: “The rapidly evolving resistance is turning common infections into untreatable diseases.

“The world is entering an era where a child’s scratched knee could kill, where patients entering hospital gamble with their lives and routine operations are too dangerous to carry out.

“Every antibiotic ever developed is at risk of becoming useless. The age of safe medicine is ending.”Professorfessor Laura Piddock, Director of Antibiotic Action andProfessorfessor of Microbiology at the University of Birmingham said: “The world needs to respond as it did to the AIDS crisis of the Eighties.”

She said governments need to pump money into developing new drugs and added that UK funding on antibiotic research has dropped to less than one per cent of available research funds.

Dr Lo Fo Wong said antibiotic resistance was bigger than the AIDS crisis because “everyone is potentially in danger”.

Dr Paul Cosford, Director for Health Protection and Medical Director at Public Health England, said: “Whilst the UK does not have the levels of antibiotic resistance seen in some parts of the world we do see patients with infections resistant to antibiotics and we take these very seriously.”