Hamburger Disease Drug Put to the Test

Published: 29 July 2003

A research study, testing a new treatment for hamburger disease, was launched today at The Montreal Children's Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). The study conducted by investigators from the Research Institute of the MUHC and from The Children's, will test the ability of this treatment to stop disease progression in children.

"Hamburger disease", or hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), affects more than 3 000 North Americans annually and is one the leading causes of acute and chronic kidney failure in children. It usually occurs following a gastrointestinal infection caused by a strain of bacteria called E.coli O157:H7. This bacterium has been associated with eating undercooked ground beef and drinking contaminated water, unpasteurized milk, or apple juice. The organism was involved in the Walkerton epidemic several years ago.

"Currently, there is no effective treatment for HUS," says MUHC pediatrician and lead investigator Dr. Paul Goodyer. "Approximately, ten percent of E.coli-infected patients, many of whom are children, develop HUS. About half of the HUS patients require dialysis and even with comprehensive medical care four to five percent of these patients will die. Thirty percent to fifty percent of the survivors will develop long-term complications such as chronic kidney disease and nervous system disorders. Clearly, we need treatment for this disease."

The MUHC is one of six Canadian centres testing this new treatment. The treatment involves administrating an antibody to the toxin produced by E.coli O157:H7. "We expect that this antibody will inactivate the toxin in the bloodstream at an early enough stage to prevent damage to kidneys and brain," says MUHC emergency room physician and co-investigator Dr. Dominic Chalut.

Children seen at the Montreal Children's Hospital Emergency Department who have bloody diarrhea for less than 72 hours and whose stools test positive for E.coli O157:H7 are eligible for the study. Following administration of the treatment, blood and urine samples will be taken and disease progression will be assessed. The children will be followed for a total of four months.

This study is funded by Tejin America Inc.

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