Team led by Indian-American physician finds cure for sepsis

Dr. Pinaki Panigrahi of the University of Nebraska Medical Center., monitors a baby’s progress in a clinical trial in India. (Photo: UNMC)

A research team at the UNMC College of Public Health, led by  Dr. Pinaki Panigrahi, professor, epidemiology and pediatrics, Center for Global Health and Development, has determined that a special mixture of good bacteria in the body reduced the incidence of sepsis in infants in India by 40 percent at a cost of only $1 per infant.

The findings are reported in this week’s issue of the journal Nature. The results reflect a culmination of 15 years of research and could seriously impact infant health worldwide. Sepsis is a severe complication of bacterial infection in the blood, that results in around one million infant deaths worldwide each year, mostly in developing countries.

The team enrolled more than 4,500 newborns from 149 villages in the Indian province of Odisha and followed them for their first 60 days, the most critical period when they get sick and die. “This is the largest clinical trial of probiotics in newborns funded by the National Institutes of Health,” Dr. Panigrahi is quoted saying in a press release from UNMC.

The intestinal system is the largest immune organ in the body, Dr. Panigrahi said. “If you took it apart and spread out the villi – small, finger-like projections that extend into the small intestine – it would cover a tennis court. And, it’s loaded with lymphoid cells. So, if you want to stimulate the body’s immunity, go to the intestine.”

The special mixture included a probiotic called Lactobacillus plantarum ATCC-202195 combined with fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS), an oral synbiotic preparation developed by Dr. Panigrahi, a press release from UNMC said.

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. Synbiotics are combinations of probiotics with an FOS supplement that promotes growth and sustains colonization of the probiotic strain. FOS, naturally found in breast milk and such plants as onion, chicory, garlic, asparagus, banana, artichoke and others, is food for the probiotic bacteria.

It is estimated that 40 percent of patients with severe sepsis in developing countries do not survive. When children and adults are included, the inpatient cost for managing patients with sepsis in U.S. hospitals is nearly $24 billion each year.

“This study has to be replicated in different countries and under different circumstances,” Panigrahi is quoted saying. “We maintained tight controls on the administration of the synbiotic and conducted a rigorous follow-up which will not be available in real life,” he said.




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