Re-writing the research on the treatment of infection

Re-writing the research on the treatment of infection

(Medical Xpress)—A major breakthrough in the search for alternatives to antibiotics and the treatment of infection could provide microbiologists with a whole new insight into the way germs co-exist with or attack humans.

The discovery led by a team in Schools of Life Sciences and Chemistry at The University of Nottingham has revealed that are 'hijacking' the 's own to adapt their life style inside our body and survive our or build up their own attack.

The discovery could lead to the development of new drugs to prevent and treat infections such as blood poisoning and epidemic meningitis. The results of this research, have been published today, Wednesday 9 October 2013 in the Royal Society's academic journal Open Biology.

Professor Dlawer Ala'Aldeen, an expert in microbiology and infectious diseases, said: "This is basically germ warfare between us and bacteria. What we have discovered is that bacteria hijack our immune response, by binding and taking up the , enhancing their gene expressions and changing their own virulent behaviour. As a result, they make themselves more aggressive and able to withstand our defences and go further to invade our tissues.

"When the human body is under attack from bacteria it releases proteins called cytokines, to prepare for the fight against the invaders. This pro-inflammatory response helps us fight off bacterial infections such as the meningococcus which causes meningitis and septicaemia. Until now it was thought these cytokines were there as communication messengers between our cells to help build up our defences."

Panos Soultanas, a professor of biological chemistry, said: "This is new information, something we didn't know before, and it could change drastically the way we view host pathogen interactions."

Dr Jafar Mahdavi, who led the laboratory investigations, said: "Cytokines are major players in the co-ordination of the human . It was, until now, unbelievable that bacteria can use them for their own benefit. This very exciting discovery could re-write current literature. The bacteria are doing things inside our bodies which nobody believed before. We now have a much better understanding of the whole mechanism – how bacteria do this and why. We have already studied this in Neisseria meningitis and E. coli infection models and it seems that the different bacteria behave in the exactly the same way."

When harmony turns to discord

These pathogens and the human host routinely live in harmony with one another. But when infection strikes, scientists now know they are adept at taking advantage of one another's defences. The real impact of this discovery is that science now knows enough to look at ways of manipulating bacterial genetics to help in the fight against infection and community based diseases.

Professor Ala'Aldeen said: "The discovery that the bacterial surface molecules act as gatekeepers and hijack human cytokines to improve their own effectiveness could lead to new preventative or therapeutic strategies against bacterial infections, and could be exploited as alternatives to antibiotics. This discovery will enable us to find ways of dampening down the effects of bacterial attack on our immune system by manipulating their genetics and forcing them to 'forget' about invading us, and instead co-exist with us."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How meningitis bacteria 'slip under the radar'

Sep 26, 2013

(Phys.org) —Scientists have discovered a natural temperature sensor in a type of bacteria that causes meningitis and blood poisoning. The sensor allows the bacteria to evade the body's immune response, ...

Body's 'safety procedure' could explain autoimmune disease

Sep 05, 2013

Monash University researchers have found an important safety mechanism in the immune system that may malfunction in people with autoimmune diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis, potentially paving the way for innovative treatments.

Crucial pathway to fight gut infection discovered

Sep 11, 2013

The researchers found virulent E. coli bacteria blocked a pathway that would normally protect the gut from infection. These infections are particularly serious in young children and can result in diarrhoea and other compli ...

How bacteria talk to each other and our cells

Nov 06, 2012

Bacteria can talk to each other via molecules they themselves produce. The phenomenon is called quorum sensing, and is important when an infection propagates. Now, researchers at Linköping University in Sweden are showing ...

Recommended for you

Team reprograms blood cells into blood stem cells in mice

9 hours ago

Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital have reprogrammed mature blood cells from mice into blood-forming hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), using a cocktail of eight genetic switches called transcription factors. The reprogrammed ...

User comments