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Radiation sickness treatment shows promise

Regimen could be used in the aftermath of major incidents

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3:12pm, November 23, 2011

A drug composed of an ordinary antibiotic combined with a microbe-fighting compound may be enough to protect thousands of people from the ravages of radiation sickness in the aftermath of a major nuclear accident or attack, experiments with mice suggest.

Researchers exposed mice to a heavy dose of radiation and 24 hours later gave some of them injections of an antibiotic and a protein that’s made naturally by the immune system. Thirty days later, most mice that received no treatment were dead, whereas nearly 80 percent of mice that received the treatment still appeared healthy, a team reports in the Nov. 23 Science Translational Medicine.

Follow-up studies are still needed before the combo can be used to treat people, but versions of the antibiotic and the protein have already been used in humans, so the new approach looks promising. It might even be used as a preemptive measure for first responders.

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