Canadian researchers have found that mesenchymal stem cells, a type of adult stem cell found in bone marrow and some other tissues, may help treat septic infection. Mice that had a septic infection were treated with mouse mesenchymal bone marrow adult stem cells; animals also received standard antibiotic treatment. Mesenchymal stem cells are known to influence the immune system and help repair tissue damage. Five days after treatment, 50 per cent of the animals that received the adult stem cells were alive, compared to just 15 per cent of the control animals that did not receive the cells.

According to Dr. Duncan Stewart, senior author:

"Our results suggest that mesenchymal stem cells may provide a promising new approach for treating organ damage caused by severe infection and we are looking to test this in patients in the near future."

Sepsis is the second leading cause of mortality in Canadian and U.S. intensive care units, resulting in more than 200,000 deaths each year and more than $16 billion in health care costs.

The study is published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.