Pneumonia: enzymes instead of antibiotics

New therapy successfully tested

Streptococcus pneumoniae © Janice Carr / CDC
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Researchers have successfully tested a new therapy for dangerous pneumonia. As they report in the current issue of the journal Critical Care Medicine, they have succeeded for the first time in mice in curing pneumococcal pneumonia with the enzyme Cpl-1. Pneumococci are among the most common causes of pneumonia.

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The enzyme Cpl-1 is produced by so-called bacteriophages. Martin Witzenrath and Professor Norbert Suttorp of Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and Rockefeller University of New York in Critical Care Medicine. These are viruses that invade bacteria, reproduce there and then destroy the bacterium to leave it again.

"According to our findings, Cpl-1 is just as effective as an antibiotic, without attacking other bacteria. Unfortunately, it only affects pneumococci, but there are comparable enzymes to different bacteria, "explains Witzenrath.

Less bacteria, no side effects

An experiment with mice illustrates the good effect of the enzyme Cpl-1. The mice, which were severely infected with pneumococcal pneumonia, were divided into three groups. The first group got the classic antibiotic penicillin and survived the disease. The second group received Cpl-1, the third received placebo. display

All placebo-treated mice subsequently died, but their Cpl-1-treated counterparts survived. According to the results of the scientists, these resulted in a significant decrease in the number of bacteria in the lungs and blood. The typical symptoms of pneumonia disappeared quickly. In addition, no side effects of Cpl-1 have occurred in mice or human cell cultures.

Deadly pneumonia

Pneumonia often leads to death today. "Conventional antibiotics are increasingly no longer helping, because they are too often prescribed for harmless diseases, " explains Witzenrath. "The dangerous pathogens have time to change so that these remedies can no longer harm them."

That's why researchers around the world are feverishly searching for new therapeutic strategies. "Cpl-1 could prove to be a way out, " hopes the Charité researcher. Authorization procedures for the first clinical trials are already in progress.

(idw - Charit -Universit tsmedizin Berlin, 05.02.2009 - DLO)