U finds new disease variant

The new form of toxic shock syndrome kills 80 percent of those infected.

University researchers have discovered a new variant form of the bacterial infection toxic shock syndrome that claims the lives of 80 percent of those infected.

Patrick Schlievert, a University professor of microbiology, who discovered the infection, said the new variant form is a lung infection that occurs in patients, both men and women, who are recovering from upper respiratory illnesses.

The infection is caused by a strain of staphylococcus bacteria that releases toxins into the blood stream, he said. These toxins can cause blood clotting, organ failure and often result in death.

For 27 years, Schlievert said, he has been researching toxic shock syndrome, and the variant form of it is far more severe. He added that since 2000, there has been an increase in cases in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

“The University was the first to discover this deadly infection and is the only research team studying it,” Schlievert said.

Researchers said they expect the infection to affect multiple people and predict there will be thousands of cases each year.

“To determine just how many deaths will occur from this infection would be impossible,” Schlievert said.

Many people affected are recovering from respiratory tract infections and soon experience high fevers, dizziness and develop noticeable skin rashes known as “purpura,” he said.

“It looks like a big, bloody, red birth mark,” he said.

The bacterial infection can prove resistant to standard antibiotics, Schlievert said. Treatment is available and should be taken early to be effective.

The recommended treatment consists of antibiotics, fluids, electrolytes and a drug called “activated protein C,” Schlievert said.

Further research is currently being conducted at the

University. Researchers said they are striving to learn how to kill the virus and neutralize the toxins to delay blood clotting.

Fran Doherty, a first-year University student, said she had heard about the bacterial infection but was not aware of how deadly it is.

According to the medical journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, 10 out of the 12 people who have developed the lung infection since 2000 have died.

“People need to be aware that this affects men, women and children at any age or degree of health,” Schlievert said.