Saving infants from a killer bacteria

FRESNO, Calif.

If Isaac coffee's mom hugs him a little tighter these days, there's a reason. He's a survivor.

"They were telling me like, it's a 50/50 chance that he might make it, and there's a 50/50 chance that he might not," Lilian Coffee, Isaac's mom, told Action News.

Isaac was born a full 12 weeks premature, tiny and very sick.

"I was just thinking, every day, like my baby, he's going to make it, he's going to be strong, and I got to be strong with him," Lillian said.

X-rays showed gas in the wall of his intestine, in necrotizing enterocolitis, the intestinal wall is invaded by bacteria, causing damage, even intestinal death.

"In the worst case, all the intestines can be affected, and actually go on to die. There's an in-between form, where babies, just a portion of the intestine gets sick and forms a hole," Jacqueline Saito, M.D., an assistant professor of the division of pediatric surgery at Washington University School of Medicine said.

Doctors at Washington University School of Medicine are working to stop NEC with aggressive early intervention and clinical research, analyzing how preemies respond to specific intestinal bacteria.

"In the case of babies, if they're born very prematurely or their defenses were maybe down before that, a bacteria that doesn't bother you or me may be fatal," Dr. Saito said.

After four months in the ICU at St. Louis children's, and removal of part of his intestine, Isaac wears the battle scars of a winning fight.

"He made it, and he's been through a lot," Lilian said.

Now, Isaac's two years old, full of energy, and he and his mom have plenty to smile about. Doctors at Washington University are among a group of scientists worldwide studying the impact of bacteria on our immune systems. The researchers say the more they know about the role of bacteria in NEC, the more babies they could save.

If you would like more information, please contact:
Judy Martin
Associate Director Media Relations
Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
(314) 286-0105
martinju@wustl.edu

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