University of Virginia Discovered Hormone Capable of Combating Pneumonia

Hormone May Help Cure Bacterial Pneumonia

A team of researchers at the University of Virginia has identified a particular hormone that could help combat severe bacterial pneumonia.

Lung X-Rays

Lung X-Rays

The discovery could offer an easier means of treating people suffering from this disorder, one of the most deadly. It is particularly interesting in light of the increasing incidence of bacteria resistance.

Scientists from the UVA School of Medicine reported that they have identified a hormone called hepcidin, which can help to fight pneumonia caused by bacteria. They said the substance makes it hard for the organisms responsible for the disorder to survive.

The hormone, which comes from the liver, keeps pneumonia bacteria from having access to iron in the blood needed for sustenance. It thus reduces the number of microbes and prevents them from spreading.

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“The rate at which these organisms become resistant to antibiotics is far faster than the rate at which we come up with new antibiotics,” said Borna Mehrad, MBBS, a researcher working at the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at UVA. “It’s a race, and they’re winning it.”

The discovery in this study, published in the journal JCI Insight, could help to change the story. It is promising for people especially vulnerable to bacterial pneumonia.

Researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) also took part in the study.

Hepcidin beneficial

Mehrad and his colleagues studied the effects of the hormone in mice. They discovered that animals genetically modified to not produce it showed a greater tendency of developing bacterial pneumonia.

The bacteria spread from the lungs of almost all of the mice into their bloodstream eventually resulting in their deaths. Mehrad said the animals were not able to deprive the pathogens of iron thereby giving them room to do damage.

The researchers said it was a similar inadequacy in terms of hepcidin that contributes to the disorder in humans.

Helping vulnerable people

Many people do not have sufficient amounts of hepcidin in their bodies to fight pneumonia bacteria. For instance, those with liver disease or a genetic disorder often have low levels, said study first author Kathryn Michels.

People with iron overload usually have lesser amounts of the substance, according to the researchers.

Michels said their research was very relevant to people who produce too little of the hormone and, so, are more susceptible to disorders such as pneumonia.

As the bacteria causing the deadly condition shows greater antibiotic resistance, this study suggests a potential alternative to consider. It may be possible to kill off the organisms by increasing the levels of hepcidin in people with bacterial pneumonia.

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Michels noted that there was already a drug in the pipeline. This would mimic the effects of the hormone in reducing the amounts of iron in the blood. She believed the treatment could be useful for persons having the disorder and low hepcidin levels.

The primary aim of the drug in question was the correction of iron overload, such as that resulting from hereditary hemochromatosis. It now looks to serve another equally important purpose.


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