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Pneumonia fighter hormone identified

Scientists have identified a hormone critical for preventing pneumonia bacteria from spreading throughout the body, which may help fight off a severe form of the deadly disease.

Stimulating hepcidin production in patients who do not produce it well, such as people with iron overload or liver disease, may help their bodies effectively starve the bacteria to death, said researchers, including those from the University of Virginia in the United States.

Researchers found that mice that had been genetically modified to lack hepcidin were particularly susceptible to bacterial pneumonia.

Nearly all of the mice had the pneumonia bacteria spread from the lungs into their bloodstream, ultimately killing them. “It is the exact same thing that happens in people,” Borna Mehrad of University of Virginia.

“The mice that lacked the hormone were not able to hide iron away from the bacteria, and we think that is why the bacteria did so well in the blood,” Mr. Mehrad pointed out.

Hides iron

The hormone Hepcidin is produced in the liver and limits the spread of the bacteria by hiding the iron in the blood that the bacteria need to survive and grow, said researchers.

“The rate at which these organisms become resistant to antibiotics is far faster than the rate at which we come up with new antibiotics,” Mr. Mehrad said.

The study was published in the journal JCI Insight .

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