Researchers are working on a new way to treat burn wound sepsis.

According to a 2015 review in the Journal of Critical Care of the 40,000 burn-related hospitalizations that occur each year, 3,400 people end up dying from their injuries. Most burn-related deaths are the result of sepsis. This happens when the wound becomes infected by a harmful bacteria strain. However, as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained, the sepsis treatments often involve hospitalization, where patients are monitored and given antibiotics. If need be, doctors might have patients undergo surgery to remove necrotic tissue.

However, scientists from Switzerland are taking measures to possibly prevent dangerous sepsis before it ever sets in.

The struggle with bacteria

In an mSphere study, University of Geneva researchers countered bacterial impact in burn wound infections. In an accompanying press release, lead author Karl Perron said that the team focused specifically on exudate, or fluids that seep out of most burn wounds. It’s the exudate, he explained, that has a substantial influence on wound care for all burn patients.

“The production and the composition of these fluids greatly influence the wound healing process, the overall state of the patient, as well as the virulence of opportunistic bacteria,” he said. “That is why we wanted to determine the precise composition of the exudates and their effect on these pathogens.”

The team examined three primary strains of bacteria: Pseudomonas aeruginosa, staphylococcus aureus and acinetobacter baumannii. These bacteria are often described as “opportunist agents,” and can quickly enter a human host and become pathogenic. By placing these bacteria into various samples of human exudate, the team uncovered a few key findings.

Groundbreaking insights

For one, both S. aureus and A. baumannii were hindered by the exudate, and unable to propagate and cause a wide-scale infection. Co-author Betty Fleuchot said she believes that the exudate prevented the bacteria’s production center from working and prevent proliferation. The P. aeruginosa samples, meanwhile, actually grew stronger when exposed to the exudate. Fleuchot said that P. aeruginosa might have flourished because it was able to capture iron from the host and thus disperse far more effectively.

The Swiss team will continue its research into burn wounds and exudate. However, as Perron explained, this is a huge first step in a possible groundbreaking treatment. The team’s eventual goal is to create an artificial culture medium similar to exudate. Once they have that, they can see how it interacts with bacteria and find newer, more efficient ways to combat these destructive strains.


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