A research team at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has discovered that Alpha1-antitrypsin does a surprisingly good job killing bacteria as well as combating infections.

The researchers sought the answer for what would be the consequence of treating individuals with immune-compromised conditions using alpha1 in so far as susceptibility to infections.

“Imagine we provide inhaled alpha1 to weak patients that are about to be hospitalized for prolonged periods of time in bacteria-rich hospital facilities,” says Dr. Eli C. Lewis, head of the clinical islet laboratory at BGU. “We already know that the benefit of alpha1 under these conditions spans a vast number of bacterial strains with no evidence for bacterial resistance of any kind.”

Lead by Kaner Ziv and Shahaf Galit of the Lewis Lab at BGU, mice were directly infected with various strains of live bacteria at different infection sites, including lungs and gut. The initial aim was to exclude the possibility of worsening infection progression in treated mice. Yet the group stumbled upon highly unexpected outcomes: not only did the treated mice combat the infections better, but the bacteria that were directly introduced into the various compartments were practically eradicated by alpha1 therapy before the end of the first 24 hours; there were barely bacteria left to grow colonies on a plate.

The team says the clinical implications of these findings are immense.

The study was reported in the Journal of Infectious Diseases by the group of Dr. Eli C. Lewis “Acute Phase Protein α1-Antitrypsin Reduces Bacterial Burden in Mice by Selective Modulation of Innate Cell Responses.”