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Researchers discover drug that combats sepsis

BOSTON (AP) -- An international research team says it has discovered the first drug that successfully combats sepsis, a blood infection that kills about 225,000 Americans each year. Researchers have spent about 15 years looking for a drug to fight it.

"From what we saw, this is a tremendous breakthrough," said Dr. Michael Matthay of the University of California, San Francisco. "This is truly a landmark trial."

Much of the public has never heard of sepsis, even though about 750,000 cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, researchers say. Many medical problems give rise to sepsis, including pneumonia, trauma, surgical complications and cancer.

Sepsis, a bacterial infection of the bloodstream, sets off a chain of chemical reactions that lead to excessive inflammation and clotting. It often causes death by destroying a patient's internal organs. The new drug is derived from a natural blood product known as activated protein C.

Sepsis patients are currently treated with antibiotics, fluids and ventilators. The research was carried out on 1,690 patients with severe sepsis at 164 locations in 11 countries. Patients who took the drug had a 19 percent lesser chance of dying than the others.

Man convicted of hiring 3 to kill pregnant girlfriend

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- A jury convicted a man Thursday of capital murder for hiring others to beat his pregnant girlfriend and kill her fetus.

Erik Bullock, 30, received an automatic sentence of life in prison because prosecutors did not seek the death penalty. He also was convicted of first-degree battery, which carries a 20-year sentence.

The case was the first brought under Arkansas' Fetal Protection Act. The 1999 law allows murder charges if a fetus in at least the 12th week of gestation dies as the result of a violent crime.

Derrick Witherspoon, 18, and Lonnie Beulah, 17, who are accused of beating Shiwona Pace, are awaiting trial on capital murder charges. Their brother, Eric Beulah, 22, is serving a 40-year prison sentence.

Prosecutors said Bullock feared Pace's pregnancy would disrupt his relationship with another woman. They said Bullock paid the men $400 total to beat Pace. The nearly full-term fetus was stillborn Aug. 26, 1999, after Pace was taken to an emergency room with a lacerated spleen, fractured wrist, broken finger and numerous bruises and cuts. DNA tests later showed that Bullock was not the father.

Two indicted in deaths of four at nursing home

XENIA, Ohio (AP) -- Indictments were handed up Friday in the deaths of four nursing home residents who were mistakenly given nitrogen instead of oxygen.

Greene County Prosecutor William Schenck said involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide charges were brought against two defendants, but he would not identify them or say whether they are individuals or corporations.

However, Schenck said the grand jury did not indict two maintenance workers who had contact with the nitrogen tank, or the administrator of the Carriage-by-the-Lake nursing home in Bellbrook, or anyone at the company that delivered the tank. The prosecutor said the identities will be released Monday.

Six other residents of the nursing home became ill Dec. 7 after a nitrogen tank -- apparently delivered to the home by mistake, with a confusing label -- was connected to the oxygen system.

The nitrogen tank had an oxygen label partially covered by a smaller nitrogen label, authorities said.

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