In this study, scientists reported that statins prolonged the lives of mice with sickle cell disease following infection with the pneumococcal bacteria. Researchers also reported that a day after being infected, the treated mice had fewer bacteria in their lungs and blood, suggesting statins slowed the spread of the infection.
Tuomanen said statins did not cure the mice, but prolonged their survival. She said the extra time might make a life-or-death difference in humans by keeping patients alive long enough for other medications to kill the bacteria.
The research reflects the long-standing interest of St. Jude investigators in both sickle cell and pneumococcal and other infectious diseases. Tuomanen said it is also an example of the insights gained when basic and clinical investigators collaborate.
Pneumococcal infection is the leading cause of lethal pneumonia in children worldwide. The bacterium poses an even greater threat to children with SCD. They are 400 times more likely than their healthy counterparts to develop widespread, potentially fatal pneumococcal infections.
Sickle cell is the most common genetic disorder worldwide. In the U.S., the disease most often strikes those of African ancestry. About one in every 375 African American newborns inherits the mistake in instructions for assembling the hemoglobin protein, which is responsible for ferrying oxygen throughout the body. As a result, their red blood cells sometimes change from a pliable, disc shape to a brittle, sickled shape. The sickled cells are unable to move easily through tiny blood vessels, disrupting circulation and leaving affected individuals at risk for a variety of debilitating and deadly problems, including infections.
The risk posed by the pneumococcus is so great that young sickle cell patients are prescribed a daily dose of penicillin in hopes of preventing the infection. Investi
|SOURCE St. Jude Children's Research Hospital|
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