A stubborn bacterial infection often acquired in hospitals & which can be deadly may have a new treatment on the horizon, US researchers said Wednesday.
Antibiotics only work approximately 25 percent of the time in wiping out Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, a pathogen that infects the digestive tract & kills approximately 15,000 people & hospitalizes 250,000 each year in the United States.
But the antioxidant drug ebselen was shown to kill C. diff by targeting its toxins, not by killing the bacteria & wiping out beneficial gut microbes at the same time, said researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine.
The study in the journal Science Translation Medicine was done on mice, yet researchers say human trials could be expedited because the drug is already being investigated for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, stroke, atherosclerosis & cancer.
"Unlike antibiotics — which are both the frontline treatment for C. difficile infection and, paradoxically, possibly its chief cause — the drug didn't kill the bacteria," said senior author Matthew Bogyo, professor of pathology & of microbiology & immunology.
Rather, it disabled a toxin produced by the pathogen & prevented intestinal damage & inflammation.
C. diff costs the United States more than $4 billion in healthcare expenses & it often recurs in patients, requiring further hospitalization, researchers said.
The infection is particularly perilous for those with weakened immune systems.
About seven percent of people who are infected die within a month of diagnosis.