These factors can predict infection risk among serious burn patients

March 10, 2015

Predicting infection risk could lead to more targeted treatment and prevention, as well as reduce unnecessary antibiotic use, according to a new study.

Researchers have added to the set of characteristics that help doctors identify which patients recovering from serious burns are most likely to suffer repeat infections. Predicting infection risk could lead to more targeted treatment and prevention, as well as reduce unnecessary antibiotic use, according to a new study.

A study led by Harvard Medical School researchers looks at 113 burn patients, 16 years and older with burns on more than 20 percent of their bodies.

They found factors currently used to estimate infection risk, including patients' age and extent of burn and lung injury from smoke inhalation were associated with multiple infections. But they also found that a biomarker model based on observed differences in gene expression correctly predicted infection susceptibility of more than 80 percent of patients, according to a Feb. 4, 2015 Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) press release.

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In fact, gene expression involved with immune response, overall metabolism and epigenetic functions, was significantly different in patients who suffered multiple infections, which implies impairment of those functions could be associated with increased infection susceptibility.

"Our approach is the first to enable the prediction of repeat infections days or even weeks before they occur," says the study’s senior author Laurence Rahme, MS, PhD, associate professor of surgery, microbiology and immunobiology at Harvard Medical School. "All current approaches that use biomarkers identify infections after they have occurred. The ability to predict infection would allow more effective prevention and treatment, help stem the emergence of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms and reduce the costs of care."

Next: Findings might be applicable to causes of infection

 

These findings might be applicable to causes of infection other than burns. Examples, according to Dr. Rahme, include the care of military personnel, among whom multidrug-resistant infection from blast and other combat injuries has become a major cause of illness and death.

“With our focus on innovative ways to counter these infections through the development of biomarker panels and our pioneering work on anti-virulence therapies that block pathogenesis but not cell viability, we hope to open new avenues to treat and prevent infection that do not contribute to antibiotic resistance," Dr. Rahme says.

References

 

Source: Yan S, Tsurumi A, Que YA, Ryan CM, Bandyopadhaya A, Morgan AA, Flaherty PJ, Tompkins RG, Rahme LG. Prediction of Multiple Infections After Severe Burn Trauma: A Prospective Cohort Study. Ann Surg. 2014 Jun 19.

For more on the topic of antibiotic resistance, see Dermatology Times’ Feb. 6, 2015 article: AARS, CDC partner on antibiotic awareness.