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Battling bacteria in the blood: Researchers tackle deadly infections
Date:11/11/2008

ANN ARBOR, Mich. It's a leading cause of death, but no one knows for sure how and why it happens. It's a major source of health care costs, adding days or weeks to the hospital stays and lost work time of millions of people. But no one fully understands how best to fight it.

"It" is bacterial infection in the blood, also called bacteremia, and it's a major part of the very serious illness called sepsis.

It's an infection that will turn deadly in some people, especially cancer patients and others with weak immune systems while being easily treated in others. It doesn't get much public attention, although it affects ten times more Americans than breast cancer. Hospitals struggle mightily, but often futilely, to prevent and treat it every day.

Now, new research by a University of Michigan team and their colleagues is tackling the problem at its most basic level, in hopes of finding new and more effective ways to treat bacteremia and sepsis.

In a research paper published in the November issue of the journal Shock, and recent papers in the journals Bulletin of Mathematical Biology and Academic Emergency Medicine, the team describes new computer-based models of bloodstream infection that may help guide the development of new treatments.

The models use complex mathematical techniques, but have been validated by laboratory experiments in mice and in engineered bloodstream models.

The new findings give more information than ever before about how bacteria act within the blood vessels of the body, and how they might be filtered out of the blood and into organs where the immune system can attack and kill them.

Now, this model of how bacteremia occurs in "real world" of the fast-moving bloodstream rather than a placid Petri dish or test tube can be put to work to study how best to combat or prevent bacteria in the blood.

John Younger, M.D., M.S., an associate professor of emergency medici
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Contact: Kara Gavin
kegavin@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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