BALTIMORE – March 10, 2003 – Treating anthrax patients with a combination of antibiotics and antibodies could greatly improve their likelihood of survival, say researchers today at the American Society for Microbiology's Biodefense Research Meeting.
"Currently there is no effective treatment for inhalation anthrax beyond administration of antibiotics shortly after exposure," says Vladimir Karginov of Advanced Biosystems, Inc. in Manassas, Virginia, a lead researcher in the study. "Time delay reduces the effectiveness of antibiotic treatment. There is need for new, safe and effective treatments to supplement traditional antibiotic therapy."
Antibiotic therapy for inhalation anthrax is generally only effective if it is started within days of exposure, before symptoms appear. By the time symptoms do appear antibiotics alone will not work because while they do kill the bacteria, anthrax toxin has already accumulated in the body to dangerous levels and the chances of dying are extremely high.
Karginov and his colleagues have developed a treatment strategy that addresses this problem. In addition to antibiotics to kill the infection, patients can also be given antibodies that programmed to attack a part of the toxin called the protective antigen and prevent it from doing damage.
"In animals infected with a dose of anthrax spores sufficient to cause 80 percent mortality, antibiotic treatment with ciprofloxacin alone only cures 50 percent of infected animals," says Karginov. "In contrast, administration of rabbit antibodies either against heat inactivated anthrax bacteria or against protective antigen in combination with ciprofloxacin produced 100 percent survival."
The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) is the largest single life science society, composed of over 42,000 scientists, teachers, physicians, and health professionals. Its mission is to promote research and training in the microbiological sciences and to assist communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public to improve health, economic well being, and the environment.