An experimental drug has been shown to significantly reduce deaths caused by a bacterial infection so severe it kills as many as 60 percent of those who contract it, according to a clinical study that was to be published today.
The drug, known as Centoxin, reduced by 39 percent the number of deaths attributed to a blood infection known as gram-negative sepsis, said a team of researchers writing in the New England Journal of Medicine.
For those patients who went into septic shock -- a complication of gram-negative sepsis that kills as many as 75 percent of its victims -- the drug reduced mortality by 42 percent.
Gram-negative sepsis and septic shock account for between 30,000 and 100,000 deaths per year in the United States.
Elizabeth J. Ziegler, the report's lead author and a specialist in infectious diseases at the University of California at San Diego, said the results were compelling.
"We really don't expect to be able to reverse fully developed organ failure," she said.