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Major advances in Argentina against hemolytic uremic syndrome

Scientists from Conicet and the company Inmunova develop the first treatment in the world to prevent the progression of this disease.

It is known as “the disease of raw hamburgers” because it is transmitted by eating contaminated foods such as minced meat. Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is caused by one of the strains of the bacterium Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli. Argentina has the sad record of presenting the highest global incidence rate of HUS in children under 5 years. Although it is a serious disease, which can cause kidney damage or even death, so far there is no vaccine or antibiotic to treat it.

However, the reality of this syndrome could very soon change. Conicet scientists – together with the company Inmunova and Fundación Mundo Sano – are developing a biological medicine that could become the first treatment in the world to prevent the progression of HUS. After more than two decades of work, researchers announced yesterday – within the framework of the IX Argentine Congress of Zoonosis – that this year will begin the first phase of clinical trials in adult volunteers at the Hospital Italiano in Buenos Aires.

Grupo Insud

Los investigadores de Inmunova, la empresa de biotecnología formada por científicos del Leloir y emprendedores.

The new drug is an antiserum, similar to the treatments used against snake and scorpion stings, and acts by neutralizing the Shiga toxin. “What we develop at the research level as proof of concept is a very potent immunogen; That is, a protein that produces a very high level of antibodies against the toxin. We find the best way to develop the anti-Shiga product through the immunization of animals, in this case horses, and the production of an antiserum, something that has been successfully used in the clinic for more than 30 years and with a profile Of very accepted security, “Fernando Goldbaum, director of the Laboratory of Molecular and Structural Immunology at the Leloir Institute and responsible for the project, explained to PROFILE. The proof of concept results were published in The Journal of Immunology.
Scope. “HUS is an endemic disease in Argentina, we have 8.5 cases per 100 thousand children under five years. More or less 400 new cases per year. It can affect any pediatric age, but the most frequent one is between the 2 and 4 years. In general, they are healthy children who start with diarrhea, which at first is watery and then becomes bloody, and days later the mother notes pale. It is characterized by anemia, decreased platelets and compromised renal function, “said Laura Alconcher, secretary of the Committee of Nephrology of the Argentine Society of Pediatrics. It is a very severe disease, in 3 to 5% of cases causes death and in 30%, kidney damage.

The HUS is not cured with an antibiotic, usually the patient is given a supportive treatment: the doctors are correcting the alterations that are presented. That’s why the importance of having a drug. In fact, the project received a subsidy from the Ministry of Health in 2013 and the research is part of the Anmat Innovation Support Program to accelerate its arrival in patients.

“What we raise against a diagnosis of diarrhea, plus the biochemical diagnosis of the presence of the bacteria, is to give this antiserum in a preventive way to prevent the development of the disease. Preclinical studies show that if the toxin is neutralized in the bloodstream, the inflammatory effect of the disease goes away, “said Goldbaum. For the specialist, if clinical trials are positive, the antiserum could be available in Argentina by 2020.

“I am proud that in our country we are investigating how to avoid this disease and make it lighter once installed. The project is very promising. Although it is only in clinical trial, all the doctors are very excited “, said Alconcher, head of the Nephrology Unit of the Hospital Penna of Bahía Blanca.

Cooking and hygiene
Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a disease caused by a bacterium producing the Shiga toxin, which is usually present in food and water. “In general, food is contaminated through fecal matter. The carrier of the bacteria is the gut of cattle, anything contaminated with fecal matter from livestock can transmit the disease. The food that most often carries the bacteria to the home is meat, “explained Laura Alconcher, secretary of the Committee of Nephrology of the Argentine Society of Pediatrics.

To prevent disease, the specialist recommends cooking very well meats (over 60 degrees), avoid where possible that the boys eat minced meat, wash vegetables properly, do not use the same cutlery or dishes to cut meat

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