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Antibodies to Treat Staph Infections in Early Trial

MRSA bacteria

MRSA bacteria ( National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

24 November 2015. A study testing the safety of antibodies to prevent and treat Staphylococcus aureus infections, including those contracted in hospitals, is underway in Vienna, Austria. The clinical trial is evaluating an experimental biologic drug for the prevention and treatment of S. aureus or staph infections made by Arsanis Biosciences, a biotechnology company in Vienna and Waltham, Massachusetts.

Many people carry S. aureus bacteria in their bodies with no ill effects, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But staph bacteria can cause serious infections, particularly in hospitals and clinics, such as sepsis in the blood stream, pneumonia in lungs, and endocarditis in heart valves. A CDC survey in 2011 shows about 1 in 25 hospital patients contracts an infection, resulting in 722,000 cases in acute care facilities, leading to about 75,000 deaths.

When staph bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, the danger becomes only worse. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA, for example, is resistant to many antibiotics, leaving physicians with few treatment options. In September 2014, the White House announced a national strategy to combat antibiotic resistant bacteria, responsible for 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths each year.

Arsanis Biosciences follows a different strategy, developing antibodies rather than antibiotics to address staph bacteria. The company designs monoclonal, or highly targeted, antibodies engineered to neutralize the virulence of bacteria infections, by generating an immune response to infections. These engineered antibodies, says Arsanis, work for longer periods in the body, thus can be given in smaller doses with fewer adverse effects.

The company’s lead product, code-named ASN100, is designed as a preventive medication for people at high risk for staph infections, as well as a treatment. ASN100 — developed with a partner company Adimab, in Lebanon, New Hampshire, a spin-off enterprise from Dartmouth University — is a combination of two monoclonal antibodies that neutralize six toxins created by the infections that cause cell and tissue damage, resulting from MRSA and the related methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus or MSSA.

The clinical trial is enrolling healthy volunteers to test ASN100 for safety, tolerability, and chemical effects in the body. Arsanis also has monoclonal antibodies in discovery and lead optimization for E. coli infections and pneumonia.

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