The disease is one of the top causes of healthcare-acquired diseases in health care facilities; it can damage intestinal walls, trigger inflammatory processes in bowels, and lead to diarrhea that can be some times fatal.
Merck says that bezlotoxumab reduced C. difficile recurrence by 15 percent over the course of three months after researchers used it with standard antibiotic therapy. C. difficile infections have no designated cure. Clinicians use antibiotics to stave it off, but such medications can do more harm than good because they often kill good gut bacteria too in the process.
Merck disclosed the new drug during the International Congress of Chemotherapy and Infection (ICC) annual meeting in San Diego earlier this month.
According to the report, a single dose of the new cure significantly boosts the efficacy of standard treatment of C. difficile infections and reduces the condition’s recurrence more than antibiotics do.
Dr. Mark Wilcox, a lead investigator in the trials, explained that the drug was effective also in patients with high risk of C. difficile recurrence. Researchers noted that the new drug is not an antibiotic. It is a selective antitoxin that can contain C. difficile infection.
C. difficile bacteria damage gut walls, disturb local bacteria, and trigger the symptoms of enteritis that involve prolonged diarrhea and acute stomach pain. The antitoxin was developed by a team from the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s MassBiologics Laboratory who sold the rights to the drug to Merck six years ago.
Merck further developed the drug and performed human trials. Dr. Dale Gerding, another Merck investigator involved in the trials, explained that C. difficile infectious have the bad habit of recurring.
Bezlotoxumab doesn’t allow the bacteria to stick to gut cells and reduces the risk of the infection to recur by up to 15 percent as compared to a placebo. According to study’s background info, the infection recurs in 25 percent of patients that were previously given standard antibiotic treatment.
Merck now plans to gain federal approval for bezlotoxumab in Canada, the U.S., and Europe.
According to the CDC, C. difficile is a growing problem in health care facilities and nursing homes across the U.S. It is one of the most common hospital-acquired infections, and about 500,000 U.S. patients contract the disease every year. Of those patients, nearly 30,000 patients die of complications within the first month of first diagnosis. The illness is especially deadly to patients aged 65 or older.
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