Published: 15-01-2013 00:00 | Updated: 13-06-2014 09:47

Scientists gather to tackle lethal soft tissue infections

Common bacteria that end up in the wrong place kill and disfigure hundreds of people of all ages in the Nordic region every year. A new research project on serious deep tissue infections will now seek to find out how this can be avoided.

Bacteria that normally cause uncomplicated infections like tonsillitis can, in rare cases, lead to necrotising soft tissue infections, a feared and rapidly progressive form of deep tissue infection. The disease, which is estimated to strike around one hundred people every year in the Nordic region, can lead to amputation and, in over 30 per cent of patients, death. To explore the causes of these severe processes, the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet is launching a new EU-funded project, INFECT.

"We will be studying the entire course of events, from how the patient is first identified to how bacteria and host-specific properties influence the progression of the disease in time and space," says Professor Anna Norrby-Teglund, who is co-leading the project with Dr Mattias Svensson, docent, both at Karolinska Institutets Department of Medicine in Huddinge.

Over the coming days (1517 January), researchers and doctors from ten countries will be gathering in Stockholm to start work on the project, a key part of which is to establish a patient registry in order to produce guidelines for classification and treatment. They also hope to create quicker diagnostics and new, improved therapies. Participating in the project are 14 partners from Swedish, European and American universities and hospitals.

Also taking part in the meeting will be Doreen Marsden, who lost her previously healthy 23-year old son to a sudden deep tissue infection in 1999, inspiring her to found the The Lee Spark NF Foundation, one of INFECTs 14 partner bodies.

The EU project INFECT (Improving Outcome of Necrotizing Fasciitis: Elucidation of Complex Host & Pathogen Signatures that Dictate Severity of Tissue Infection) engages 14 partners from 10 countries: Sweden (with Karolinska Institutet as coordinator), Denmark, Norway, USA, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Israel, Austria and Great Britain.