Doctors are testing new therapy against EHEC infection

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Doctors at Hamburg University Hospital Eppendorf are testing infusion therapy against EHEC infections

Doctors at the Hamburg University Hospital Eppendorf report on a new therapeutic approach against the consequential damage of enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli infection (EHEC). The new medication could stop dangerous complications of hemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS). According to the health authorities, ten people have been shown to have died from the bacterial infection by Saturday. Further deaths are expected in the next few days and weeks.

Antibodies against EHEC complication
The number of deaths increased to ten people over the weekend. All of those affected had been infected with the EHEC germ and had died as a result of the HUS syndrome. According to authorities, around 1000 patients in Germany may have been or have already been confirmed with the EHEC bacterial infection. At Hamburg University Hospital Eppendorf (UKE), doctors are now using a new drug to stabilize the condition of those affected. Since Friday, the most serious patient cases that have disorders of the central nervous system have been given an antibody. The senior physician and renowned kidney specialist Prof. Dr. In the UKE, Rolf Stahl relies on the special antibody called "eculizumab". Based on the current state of knowledge, it cannot be predicted whether the therapeutic approach will actually be successful. "Only in a few weeks will we know how successful this therapy will be," emphasized the medical director of the clinic, Stahl. The preparation is intended to stop the neurological changes and severe kidney damage According to the clinic, six adults have been treated with "eculizumab" since Friday evening.

Hoped for a significant improvement in the symptoms of the disease
The drug has been approved in Germany since 2007 and is usually administered as an infusion. The active ingredient eculizumab is a monoclonal antibody and is used to treat rare blood disorders and the congenital HUS variant. Eculizumab works by binding to the C5 protein of the complement system and blocking terminal activation. This process reduces the destruction of the erythrocytes and significantly improves the symptoms of the disease. The most common side effects of the drug are headache, sore throat, nausea, fever, muscle pain and fatigue.

Three children successfully treated
The Hamburg physicians justify the treatment approach on the basis of a report by researchers from Heidelberg, Montreal and Paris, who describe in the science magazine "New England Journal of Medicine" how they successfully treated three children with the antibodies mentioned in 2010. All infants suffered from the HUS syndrome after an acquired EHEC infection. A repeated blood plasma exchange was previously without effect. "Then we decided to use eculizumab therapy," said Dr. Franz Schaefer, Head of the Pediatric Nephrology Section at the Center for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at the Heidelberg University Hospital. Schaefer is a medical doctor who was involved in the research report. The children's health improved significantly after only 24 hours after starting the first infusion. A strong reduction in EHEC symptoms was observed after only a short time. The infusions were repeated once to a maximum of two times every seven days. Dialysis could be ended after seven days.

Due to the dramatic events of the past few weeks, the scientists decided to publish in advance in the medical journal. Infusion therapy could be an approach to treating the destructive immune responses of HUS syndrome. It remains unclear whether the antibody therapy also works in adults. "It will only become clear in a few weeks," said the senior consultant. (sb)

Also read:
EHEC: No raw fruits and vegetables for pregnant women
EHEC causes: On the trail of the pathogen
Symptoms of an EHEC infection
First deaths from EHEC infections
No antibiotic at EHEC
Mysterious infections caused by EHEC pathogens

Image: Dieter Schütz /

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Video: Are Doctors Pushing Unnecessary Treatments?


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