UGA researchers invent super weapon to fight flesh-eating bacter - CBS46 News

UGA researchers invent super weapon to fight flesh-eating bacteria

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It is a medical product that has been in the works for more than 10 years. Ten years of extensive research and trial and error for UGA Research Professor Dr. Branson Ritchie.

Dr. Ritchie, along with his colleague Dr. R. E. Wooley, developed two medical solutions, Silvion and SilvaKlenz, out of the necessity to fight antibiotic-resistant super bacteria.

The products received FDA clearance for professional use three years ago. Since then, medical professionals have been using them as intended as an antibacterial wound cleaner (Silvaklenz) and antibacterial wound moisturizer (Silvion).

"We are amazed by how effective we can be in having some of those wounds go from a chronic phase to an acute phase and start healing," Dr. Ritchie said. "The real key is to knock holes in the bacterial cell membrane. That destroys the primary defense the bacteria uses against antibiotics environmental contaminants."

In simple terms, Dr. Ritchie said it is similar to "knocking holes in a boat and when the boat sinks it's similar to the bacteria being destroyed because it can't continue colonizing. It damages the integrity and functionality of the microbe's cellular membrane, resulting in microbial death," Dr. Ritchie said.

The products are considered advanced antimicrobial solutions.  They were designed based upon the research conducted by the Emerging Diseases Research Group at the University of Georgia.

Slowly, the product is making its way to the hands of doctors working in advanced wound care treatments. The products are approved to be used for first- and second-degree burns, stage I-V pressure ulcers, venous stasis ulcers, diabetic ulcers, dermal lesions, skin irritation, and abrasions.

"Once you get rid of the bacteria you can do some great wound care," said Dr. Belinda Marcus.

Dr. Marcus is the Medical Director at HyperbaRXs at Northside Forsyth.

"Once the bacteria are killed, there is no resistance," Dr. Marcus said. "They haven't found any resistance. So it doesn't matter what the bacteria may be, or where the source of the bacteria is. This particular combination of wound-care solutions fights everything."

Ofelia Contreras has been going through treatments using Dr. Ritchie's invention. Ulcers formed on Contreras' body in October.  She spent three months in the hospital, riddled with pain.  Since Contreras started her treatments with the Silvion and SilvaKlenz, on Jan. 16, the ulcers that put her in a hospital are finally starting to heal.

"It was a miracle from God," said Contreras. 

Large, open wounds covered much of her abdomen, thigh, buttocks, and pelvis. Her pain was debilitating and the only escape from the nightmare of her sad reality were high-powered narcotics.

"I was on a lot of morphine, for two months that is the only way I could function," said Contreras. "I didn't know who I was. I didn't do anything but cry and scream because I couldn't handle the pain."

"She has her life back, her quality of life," Dr. Marcus said. "She can do everything she did before and now she has no pain, none."

According to Dr. Ritchie, the solution, if used immediately following Aimee Copeland's accident,  could have prevented the bacteria from getting into her system.

"It is hard to say in hindsight," Dr. Ritchie said. "But if she got the wound and this would have been in her first-aid kit, the wound would've been cleansed immediately it would have been soaked down with the Silvion. Then those bacteria may never have gotten started. And if they hadn't started, we don't have to worry about them continuing to do damage to her body."

Copeland was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis after she cut herself when she fell from a broken zip-line along the Tallapoosa River on May 1. Her disease was caused by the aeromonas hydrophila bacteria, which is found in warm, brackish waters.

Doctors amputated Aimee's left leg, right foot, and both hands.

"In fact, Dr. Wooley took the pathogen that affected Aimee, and showed we could kill it with Silvaklenz and Silvion," Dr. Ritchie said.

The product is available upon request from your independent pharmacy, doctor, or nurse.

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