Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Newborns' genetic code sends infection distress signal

14.08.2014

Babies suffering from life-threatening bacterial infections such as sepsis could benefit from improved treatment, thanks to a groundbreaking study

Babies suffering from life-threatening bacterial infections such as sepsis could benefit from improved treatment, thanks to a ground-breaking study.

For the first time, researchers have been able to detect and decode a signal generated from a baby's DNA that can tell doctors whether or not a bacterial infection is present in the bloodstream.

The findings could help develop a test for bacterial infection in newborns, using a single drop of blood.

Immediate detection of such infections, which are a major cause of death among young children, is currently impossible as no simple test exists.

Accurate diagnosis of infection could limit overuse of antibiotics, which can lead to drug resistance.

The University of Edinburgh team has identified a signal consisting of 52 molecular characters – like a biological tweet – that is specific to bacterial infection.

The researchers, who have spent the past decade trying to unravel the complexities of blood poisoning and its treatment among premature and full-term babies, say that the genome's signal provides critical, immediate information on the infection.

Using blood samples from newborn babies in Edinburgh, the study investigated thousands of signals written in biological code known as messenger RNAs.

Through meticulous code-breaking the scientists were able to decipher with close to 100 per cent accuracy the signals generated by an infant's genome that specifically tell that they are suffering from sepsis.

Diagnosing sepsis in newborns is extremely difficult, as signs of infection, such as a high temperature, may not occur – or if they do, they may not be due to an infection.

Currently the most reliable way to detect infection is by detecting the bacteria in the blood but this requires a relatively large volume of blood.

An antibody test cannot be used as it only provides historical information about an infant's illness.

Professor Peter Ghazal, Professor of Molecular Genetics and Biomedicine at the University of Edinburgh's Division of Pathway Medicine, explained: "Just as a Twitter user can send a 140 character message so a baby's genome produces short messages or signals that produce code information to communicate with the infant's immune and metabolic systems so that it can fight the infection.

The 52-character 'tweet' or message that we have identified appears to be specific for bacterial but not viral infection. This type of signal could also be used to detect infection in children and adults. We are now working on ways of using a single drop of blood to detect this vital signal. This work is also leading us onto a response to tackling antibiotics resistance."

Dr Claire Smith, Consultant Neonatologist at the Simpson Centre for Reproductive Health, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, added: "This study has the potential to provide real clinical benefits in the future. Despite advances in neonatal care, infection in newborn babies remains a significant issue. Infection is responsible for a significant proportion of neonatal deaths worldwide, and also increases the risk of long-term disability in survivors.

There is a pressing clinical need for more accurate and rapid testing for neonatal infection than is currently available. This work is enabling us to move towards being able to distinguish between babies with true infection who need urgent treatment, and those who are not infected and therefore don't require antibiotics. The potential benefits to babies and their families are important. We are grateful to the families who consented to take part in the study."

###

The paper, which is published in Nature Communications, was supported by the Wellcome Trust, the Chief Scientist Office, EU-FP7, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Medical Research Council.

For more information please contact Eleanor Cowie, Press & PR Officer, on tel; +44 131 650 6382 / 0131 242 +44 7794 058 467

Eleanor Cowie | Eurek Alert!
Further information:
http://www.ed.ac.uk

Further reports about: Newborns antibiotics blood distress infections neonatal newborn resistance signals specific

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Nesting aids make agricultural fields attractive for bees
20.07.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht The Kitchen Sponge – Breeding Ground for Germs
20.07.2017 | Hochschule Furtwangen

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

Leipzig HTP-Forum discusses "hydrothermal processes" as a key technology for a biobased economy

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers create new technique for manipulating polarization of terahertz radiation

20.07.2017 | Information Technology

High-tech sensing illuminates concrete stress testing

20.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

First direct observation and measurement of ultra-fast moving vortices in superconductors

20.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>