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Health

Experimental drug offers hope of stopping E. coli infection

New Dreg
Researchers say the new drug, Synsorb PK, may help prevent E. coli from advancing to its serious state  
October 2, 1998
Web posted at: 7:23 p.m. EDT (2323 GMT)

From CNN Food & Health Correspondent Linda Ciampa

ATLANTA (CNN) -- The Dooley girls are strong and healthy today, but just a few months ago, Marybeth, 6, and Anna, 3, were hospitalized with severe E. coli infections.

"They were so sick, they couldn't even hold down sips of water -- no food whatsoever," said their mother, Melissa Dooley.

The girls from Hull, Georgia, recovered, and in the process helped doctors learn more about a new drug that may be the first to successfully fight the deadly E. coli bacteria.

Both were part of a clinical trial that is testing Synsorb PK.

"It acts like a toxin sponge," said David Cox of Synsorb Biotech Inc., the drug's maker. "The compound is taken by the patient. It goes straight to the gut because it can't go anywhere else.

"It's an insoluble product, and once in the gut, it specifically reacts with the toxins produced by E. coli -- inactivates the toxin, which is then excreted out of the body as waste."

Researchers believe the new drug might be able to prevent E. coli from advancing to its serious and most dangerous state.

Even if the infection does progress, Synsorb PK may still be beneficial by reducing the severity of life-threatening complications.

"This is a very logical treatment that has a lot of promise, so I am excited about it," said Dr. Barry Warshaw, who treated the Dooleys at Egleston Children's Hospital in Atlanta. "There have been other treatments tried -- specific treatments tried over the years. So far none have panned out."

The Dooleys don't know if the new drug will help Marybeth and Anna in their recoveries. They could have received placebos. And they don't know how the girls contracted the bacteria.

But the family said they feel good knowing that if final testing of Synsorb PK goes as planned, other children and adults sickened by E. coli could have a new drug by the end of next year.

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