New therapeutic approach effective against multiple pathogens

A collaborative team of government, academic and private-sector scientists has developed a novel treatment for tularemia, according to a report released by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Tularemia, also known as “rabbit fever,” is a highly infectious rodent disease that is sometimes transmitted to humans.

The experimental treatment, which stimulates host immune systems to destroy invading microbes, protects mice from infection by the bacterium which causes tularemia, according to the NIAID report.

NIAID director Dr. Anthony S. Fauci said the treatment also showed protection against three other types of disease-causing bacteria that are highly virulent and are considered possible bioterrorism agents.

“A therapeutic that protects against a wide array of bacterial pathogens would have enormous medical and public health implications for naturally occurring infections and potential agents of bioterrorism,” Fauci said in the report. “This creative approach is a prime example of public-private partnerships that can facilitate progress from a basic research finding to new, desperately needed novel therapeutics.”

Catharine Bosio, Ph.D., of the NIAID’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana, led the study.

In addition to showing protection against tularemia, the experimental treatment also protected human immune cells from bacteria that cause plague, melioidosis and brucellosis, the study showed.

“We are continuing to improve the versatility of this treatment as an antibacterial therapeutic with respect to timing of delivery and efficacy,” Bosio said.