Doctors are studying how immune cells communicate when infected with Klebsiella
There is a serious global threat to human health from so-called multi-resistant bacteria. Klebsiella pneumoniae is a causative agent of pneumonia and blood poisoning, which often has corresponding resistances and in which the treatment options are considerably restricted or treatment may even be completely impossible. Researchers have now found out how immune cells communicate at the site of infection and then join forces to fight Klebsiella. This could open up alternative therapeutic approaches against pathogens in which previous antimicrobial drugs are ineffective.
In their current investigation, scientists from the University of Vienna, the Medical University of Vienna and Queen’s University Belfast discovered how immune cells communicate at the site of the infection and how they combine in the fight against Klebsiella. In the future, the results could be used to develop therapies that represent an alternative to ineffective antimicrobial drugs. The experts published the results of their study in the English language journal "PLOS Pathogens".
Excessive use of antibiotics leads to dramatic consequences
Klebsiella can lead to fatal pneumonia and blood poisoning, with few treatment options. Sometimes treatment is completely impossible. One reason for the emergence and spread of multi-resistant microbial pathogens in recent decades has been the inappropriate or excessive use of antibiotics. According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, around 25,000 people in the EU die each year from infections with multi-resistant bacteria. Worldwide, the antimicrobial resistance even causes 700,000 deaths per year.
WHO warns of super bacilli
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned at the beginning of the year of antibiotic resistance called super bacilli. These bacteria are resistant to several different antibiotics, which creates an enormous risk to human health. They also include Klebsiella. This bacterium can cause serious and often fatal infections of the bloodstream and lungs. Klebsiella is resistant to common types of antibiotics. In addition, the bacterium is also largely resistant to carbapenems. These are, so to speak, the last resort for treating severe nosocomial infections.
Immune cells communicate with each other
The researchers found how immune cells communicate at the site of infection and then band together to eradicate Klebsiella during pneumonia. The result of the study shows that future therapies for severe Klebsiella infections could target the host's immune system instead of the pathogen itself, the experts explain.
Natural killer cells keep bacterial growth at bay
So-called natural killer cells can curb the growth of Klebsiella during pneumonia. The researchers were now able to identify the mechanism for this. Klebsiella activates critical regulators of the immune response, the so-called type I interferons (IFNs), which mediate between macrophages and natural killer cells. Type I interferons thus help activate natural killer cells. The killer cells then allow the macrophages to start an antibacterial program, the doctors explain.
Type I IFNs conduct the defense against bacteria, so to speak
“Type I IFNs are used by the immune system to transport messages between immune cells and thus orchestrate a perfect defense. Natural killer cells are the conductors of the Defense Orchestra, while macrophages are the instruments that kill bacteria, ”explains Masa Ivin, lead author of the study and PhD student in the Kovarik laboratory in a press release from the University of Vienna.
Will there be new therapies against multi-resistant germs in the future?
The results of the study could lead to the development of new therapies against multi-resistant germs in the near future. “If medication can no longer kill the pathogen, we should help the immune system do the job. In our current study, we identify new and feasible ways to support the immune system in the fight against super bacilli, ”explains author Pavel Kovarik. (as)