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Protein in saliva promises new diagnostic methods

31 May 2012 Expertsvar

Blood poisoning is a serious problem in medical care. Research from Malmö University in Sweden now shows that the protein suPAR, which can be used for early detection of critical cases of sepsis, is found in saliva, which opens new potential for tracking diseases.

 Blood poisoning, or sepsis, affects about 0.2 percent of the population. It is a serious condition that can lead to septic shock, one of the most common causes of death at Swedish intensive care units.  There is therefore a great need for early identification of potentially critical cases among patients.

SuPAR a good marker
The protein suPAR can be used as a marker of blood poisoning. This is shown in a dissertation written by Anna Gustafsson, a doctoral candidate at Malmö University. Gustafsson also found that the protein correlates with the so-called SOFA score, a measure of organ failure that is used in cases of blood poisoning. The protein could thus be used to identify patients who risk developing serious disease.

“Today a number of analyses are put together to identify these patients. It would be much easier and quicker to use suPAR, because only one sample is needed,” she says.

Opens new avenues
Gustafsson is also the first researcher to study the occurrence of suPAR in saliva and has found that the concentration of the protein is ten times higher than in the blood.

“We know that saliva reflects the composition of blood. The fact that suPAR in the blood can indicate cancer, diabetes, and other serious diseases means that our findings could open entirely new avenues for tracking various diseases in saliva,” says Gustafsson.

Using saliva instead of blood samples is of great value in screening studies, as samples can be acquired with little bother to patients, who in fact can take the sample themselves at home.

Treatment with peptides
Medical care needs not only better diagnostic methods but also more effective treatment for blood poisoning. In her research Gustafsson has studied how antimicrobial peptides, AMPs, affect two different bacterial toxins, LPS and LTA.

“The results show that AMPs moderate the immune defense’s reaction to LPS but strengthen the reaction to LTA. This is a truly unexpected finding, which hypothetically could mean that peptide treatment of LTA might aggravate the condition,” says Gustafsson.

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