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Battling Bacteria in the Blood: U-M Researchers Tackle Deadly Infections
Date:11/11/2008

rstand different conditions - including a low-immunity state such as what a cancer patient might experience, and a higher-than-usual blood flow rate that is often seen in patients who are fighting off a severe bloodstream infection.

"Bloodstream infections are infections that typically begin in a local part of the body, say in the bladder or the lung or the skin. But then the bacteria that cause these infections manage to break free from the usual local defenses and make it into the bloodstream, giving them an opportunity to go essentially anywhere they want," Younger explains. "Once in the bloodstream they can travel to distant organs; they can travel to the lung; they can travel to the heart. They're basically 'horses out of the barn'."

While creating the model, the researchers tested it by seeing how well it matched real-life mouse infections. Using bacteria that had been modified to give off a weak light signal that can be detected from outside the body, and other bacteria that could be detected through blood tests, they could see where the bacteria concentrated in the body during different stages of the infection, and how quickly they were killed and cleared from the body.

The liver, lung and spleen had the highest concentrations, and the lung appeared to have the most effective bacteria-killing system.

Some of the mice were given a chemotherapy drug that is often used in cancer patients - one that kills white blood cells. Cancer patients and intensive-care unit patients are especially prone to bloodstream infections not only because of their weakened immune systems, but also because they often have long-term intravenous catheters that allow medicines to be given directly into the bloodstream.

While this helps patients avoid repeated intravenous needles, it also gives bacteria an easy pathway straight into the blood.

Indeed, the mice that received the chemo drug and an injection of bacteria all died of an out-of-control
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SOURCE University of Michigan Health System
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