Tea bags fight deadly blood poisoning

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New sepsis therapy: healthy immune cells fight blood poisoning in a "tea bag"

Blood poisoning due to pneumonia, surgery or an accident are part of everyday life in the intensive care unit. Every year, more than 200,000 patients in Germany contract the inflammatory reaction, which is fatal to around 60,000 people. Doctors are often helpless against blood poisoning (sepsis) when antibiotics no longer work. Then the patient's immune system is more or less on its own. As a result, organ failure and a circulatory breakdown can occur. Rostock researchers have now successfully developed an immune support system that works similarly to a “tea bag”.

Donor cells act in a "tea bag" outside the body against blood poisoning. Around 60,000 patients die in the intensive care unit from blood poisoning every year. More than 200,000 people contract sepsis. "In the mostly older patients sepsis is the result of pneumonia, an operation or an accident," explained Professor Steffen Mitzner, kidney specialist at the University of Rostock to the news agency "dpa". Blood poisoning can later lead to organ failure if the patient's body is weakened too much by the inflammatory reaction, the immune system collapses completely. "The immune cells are exhausted. Then we die, and we doctors are helpless."

Mitzner, together with other researchers, developed a so-called immune support system outside the body (EISS) that works in a similar way to blood purification (dialysis). The doctor calls the prototype a "tea bag" at the patient's bed. He refers to the fact that the patient's blood plasma, which is contaminated with toxins and waste materials, is brought into contact with healthy donor immune cells in a device along a membrane along a membrane. The kidney specialist explains that the healthy immune cells, whose donors must have the same blood type as the patient, are "hot and want to plunge into battle". The key advantage of EISS is that the donor cells never get into the patient's body , so that violent defense reaction can be avoided.

In a “tea bag”, the new immune cells fight the inflammatory reaction in the patient's blood in cycles of several hours. They also release immune-activating substances that support the healing process. Mitzner reported that there was a significant increase in the number of markers in those affected. "The patient's immune system can go on a cure for hours or a few days and regenerate itself during this time."

Mortality from blood poisoning significantly reduced by treatment with “tea bags”. Encouraging results have been achieved in animal experiments and a first clinical study with 20 patients. Thanks to the new procedure, the death rate was less than 35 percent, while this is normally around 60 percent depending on the original disease. Already after the first circulation, the patient's circulation becomes more stable and an important basis for recovery is created.

Mitzner admits, however, that it will still take some time before EISS can be used in everyday clinical practice, as research is still in its infancy. "We don't do more harm than we do good." Nevertheless, it must first be understood "what the cells do and how we can better support them," explains the doctor. However, this was not possible for the team from the University of Rostock and the four scientists from Artcline. The researchers therefore receive support from the Leipzig Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology.

Michael Bauer, spokesman for the integrated research and treatment center Sepsis in Jena, also considers the so-called extracorporeal sepsis therapy to be promising, whereby he particularly points out the immune-activating substances that are released by the donor cells. "We have recognized that sepsis is also a complex immune defect and that the immune system has to be stimulated," the sepsis expert told the news agency. According to initial studies, the system is plausible.

These are the symptoms of blood poisoning. Many people mistakenly believe that blood poisoning is always indicated by a red streak on the skin, which gradually progresses towards the heart as the infection progresses. However, such a line is rare. The redness only indicates that an inflammatory process is taking place in the lymphatic system.

The first signs of sepsis usually include confusion and mental changes, since the brain is the first organ to be affected. Symptoms of blood poisoning may include breathing difficulties and the first signs of circulatory failure. Many sufferers also experience flu-like symptoms such as fever, general weakness and rapid heartbeat. Another characteristic of sepsis is the rapid deterioration of the general condition, so that "patients quickly feel seriously ill". Quick help is particularly important if you suspect blood poisoning, as the death rate "increases between seven and eight percent with each hour in which the inflammatory reaction progresses".

Blood poisoning is usually caused by germs that enter the organism through open wounds and trigger an inflammatory process. If the wound is not treated, the pathogens can spread throughout the body via the bloodstream and affect all organs. As a result, the oxygen supply to the organs may deteriorate. The body becomes increasingly weaker until individual organs fail. The lungs, kidneys, liver and heart then gradually fail. If it is not possible to control the inflammation, the patient's circulatory system fails completely in the last stage of the disease and the patient dies.

The risk of developing blood poisoning is particularly high for people with a weakened or not yet fully developed immune system. This includes people aged 60 and over, patients without a spleen and young children. (ag)

Image: Gerd Altmann / pixelio.de

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