Re-writing the research on the treatment of infection

October 10, 2013, University of Nottingham
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."

Explore further: Body's 'safety procedure' could explain autoimmune disease

Related Stories

Body's 'safety procedure' could explain autoimmune disease

September 5, 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

September 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 complications ...

How bacteria talk to each other and our cells

November 6, 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

Researchers illustrate how muscle growth inhibitor is activated, could aid in treating ALS

January 19, 2018
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine are part of an international team that has identified how the inactive or latent form of GDF8, a signaling protein also known as myostatin responsible for ...

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

January 18, 2018
T cells play a key role in the body's immune response against pathogens. As a new class of therapeutic approaches, T cells are being harnessed to fight cancer, promising more precise, longer-lasting mitigation than traditional, ...

Weight flux alters molecular profile, study finds

January 17, 2018
The human body undergoes dramatic changes during even short periods of weight gain and loss, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Secrets of longevity protein revealed in new study

January 17, 2018
Named after the Greek goddess who spun the thread of life, Klotho proteins play an important role in the regulation of longevity and metabolism. In a recent Yale-led study, researchers revealed the three-dimensional structure ...

The HLF gene protects blood stem cells by maintaining them in a resting state

January 17, 2018
The HLF gene is necessary for maintaining blood stem cells in a resting state, which is crucial for ensuring normal blood production. This has been shown by a new research study from Lund University in Sweden published in ...

Magnetically applied MicroRNAs could one day help relieve constipation

January 17, 2018
Constipation is an underestimated and debilitating medical issue related to the opioid epidemic. As a growing concern, researchers look to new tools to help patients with this side effect of opioid use and aging.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.