Biomarkers Discovered for Rare Hypervirulent Klebsiella Bacterium That Can Rapidly Blind or Kill Healthy Young People

Imagine a pathogen that infects completely healthy people and can cause blindness in one day and flesh-eating infections, brain abscesses, and death in just a few days. Now imagine that this pathogen is also resistant to all antibiotics. This is the nightmare scenario that obsesses Thomas A. Russo, MD, Professor of Medicine in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo (UB). Since seeing his first case in Buffalo seven years ago, he has been investigating hypervirulent Klebsiella pneumoniae, a rare, but increasingly common, strain of K. pneumoniae. There is no accurate method for distinguishing between the hypervirulent strain from the classical strain of K. pneumoniae, which is most often seen in the Western hemisphere, is less virulent, and usually causes infections in hospital settings. Now Dr. Russo, who heads the Division of Infectious Diseases in the UB Department of Medicine, and his colleagues have discovered several biomarkers that can accurately identify hypervirulent K. pneumoniae. The research was published online on June 20, 2018 in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology. In a commentary paper the journal published on June 27, 2018, authors from the Fujita Health University School of Medicine in Japan and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine noted that the UB research is "a major step forward" in developing a consensus definition of the hypervirulent strain and in designing international studies to reveal more about its epidemiology and clinical presentation. "Presently, there is no commercially available test to accurately distinguish classical and hypervirulent strains," said Dr. Russo. "This research provides a clear roadmap as to how a company can develop such a test for use in clinical laboratories. It's sorely needed." Dr.
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