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New Hope Found for Dangerous Heart Infection

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While all of the children experienced complete recovery, one patient died as a result of other complications. The surviving patients continued taking medication to suppress their immune systems for six months, and none of them experienced a return of the disease or any long-term damage to their heart.

Since the time of the study, a total of nine patients have received the treatment, and all are doing well.

The results are very promising, says Anthony Rossi, MD, but it's really too soon to draw any conclusions. "It's a small sample set, and it's probably worthwhile to say that this is an exciting new treatment with the potential to help many children with a disorder that has no real excellent treatment -- but it's very preliminary," says Rossi, who was not involved in the study and is director of the cardiac intensive unit at Miami Children's Hospital in Florida.

It is unclear, the investigators write, whether OKT3 by itself or in combinations with the other medications is required to produce the best response.

"Up until now, we haven't had much success with other treatments," Alejos says. "In some cases, patients get through with just supportive care, and in a lot of cases, they have to go on a heart lung machine." Alejos says that heart transplants are an option for some patients, but their revved up immune systems often go on to attack the new heart.

All of these treatments have the potential to do harm to patients, but none of these drugs are harmless, Rossi points out, which is why more research is needed before the treatment can be routinely used.

The researchers agree and currently are putting together a larger study. "With only five patients in three years, it's just not enough to know if it's a real trend or just good luck," Alejos says.

 

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