An experimental antibody developed by Merck & Co Inc was shown in pivotal studies to reduce by about 10 percentage points the risk that infection with Clostridium difficile bacterium, which can cause a deadly diarrhea, will recur.
In the US, C. difficile infects nearly half a million people a year and contributes to around 29,000 deaths. The infection is treated with standard antibiotics, which also wipe out friendly bacteria that normally control C difficile.
Merck said two Phase 3 studies, presented on Sunday at a medical meeting in San Diego, found 12 weeks of treatment with antibiotics and a one-time infusion of bezlotoxumab, designed to block the ability of a toxin to bind to cells, reduced to about 15 percent the risk that C. difficile would recur.
The studies found that the infection recurred in about 25 percent of patients treated with antibiotics and a placebo.
“We’ve therapies to treat the initial episode, but this infection comes back frequentlyrising to 40% or even 60% after the second infection,” said Nick Kartsonis, associate vice president in clinical research, infectious diseases at Merck.
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