BUFFALO, N.Y. — 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. 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 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 in late June in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.
Russo also is a physician with UBMD Internal Medicine.
In a commentary paper the journal published on June 27, 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.
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