The innate immune response is the first line of defense against infection and comprises an interactive network of cellular and molecular systems that recognize and kill pathogens, as well as signaling pathways that trigger biological responses.
The researchers anticipate the therapy may be useful as a supplement to antibiotics in combating common hospital infections such as ventilator associated pneumonia, post-surgical infections, high dose chemotherapy and infections arising from insertion of catheters or other medical devices.
"We now have a powerful new tool that will allow us to stop infection before it starts it's a new concept in treating infection," says Hancock.
The researchers estimate there are two million cases of antibiotic-resistant infection in hospitals that kill approximately 70,000 people annually in North America. Hospital-based methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) alone causes an estimated 100,000 hard-to-treat infections annually and is now seen in community-based infections, such as boils and abscesses or life-threatening bloodstream infections.
"Salmonella causes 1.3 million infections and up to 100 deaths every year in the U.S. We're looking at a crisis in 10 years as most bugs will be resistant to most antibiotics. There's an urgent need to develop new tools," says Brett Finlay, a UBC microbiologist and an author on the paper. He and Hancock co-founded Inimex, which conducted many of the experiments required for the study.
Researchers expect it will be about 12-15 months before the discovery is introduced into human clinical trials.