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Imaging probe allows noninvasive detection of dangerous heart-valve infection
Date:8/21/2011

A novel imaging probe developed by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators may make it possible to diagnose accurately a dangerous infection of the heart valves. In their Nature Medicine report, which is receiving advance online publication, the team from the MGH Center for Systems Biology describes how the presence of Staphylococcus aureus-associated endocarditis in a mouse model was revealed by PET imaging with a radiolabeled version of a protein involved in a process that usually conceals infecting bacteria from the immune system.

"Our probe was able to sense whether S. aureus was present in abnormal growths that hinder the normal function of heart valves," says Matthias Nahrendorf, MD, PhD, of the MGH Center for Systems Biology, a co-lead author of the study. "It has been very difficult to identify the bacteria involved in endocarditis, but a precise diagnosis is important to steering well-adjusted antibiotic therapy."

An infection of the tissue lining the heart valves, endocarditis is characterized by growths called vegetations made up of clotting components such as platelets and fibrin along with infecting microorganisms. Endocarditis caused by S. aureus is the most dangerous, with a mortality rate of from 25 to almost 50 percent, but diagnosis can be difficult since symptoms such as fever and heart murmur are vague and blood tests may not detect the involved bacteria. Without appropriate antibiotic therapy, S. aureus endocarditis can progress rapidly, damaging or destroying heart valves.

S. aureus bacteria initiate the growth of vegetations by secreting staphylocoagulase, an enzyme that sets off the clotting cascade. This process involves a protein called prothrombin, which is part of a pathway leading to the deposition of fibrin, a primary component of blood clots. The clotting process enlarges the vegetation, anchors it to the heart valve and serves to conceal the b
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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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