For the first time, researchers at Monash University are examining how stroke affects the immune system, resulting in significantly increased risk of infection.
Dr Connie Wong from the Monash Centre for Inflammatory Diseases in the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health (SCS) believes the susceptibility to infection of stroke patients can be prevented or treated with selective drugs that modulate the immune system.
“Up to now, the development of novel pharmacological approaches to treat stroke patients has focused on overcoming the disruption of blood flow to the brain,” said Dr Wong.
“However, emerging evidence indicates that the major cause of death after stroke is actually bacterial infection.”
“It is now recognised that brain injury caused by stroke disrupts the delicately balanced interconnections between the nervous and immune systems, resulting in suppression of the immune system and profound susceptibility to infection.”
Dr Wong’s research aims to discover the mechanisms that underlie this immune impairment and identify strategies to strengthen the host antibacterial defence to limit infections after stroke.
“We hope to identify a completely novel pharmacological approach for reducing bacterial infection in stroke patients that is not reliant on antibiotics, thus bypassing the growing problem of antibiotic resistance,” added Dr Wong.
Dr Wong is the recipient of a Career Development Fellowship and Project Grant in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding announcements.
“Thanks to this funding, my research will enable us to develop better and targeted treatment regimens for stroke patients, ultimately improving patient outcomes,” added Dr Wong.