Two studies by researchers at the University of Chicago show how the bacteria that cause the plague manage to outsmart the immune system and how, by slightly altering one of the microbes tools, the researchers produced what may be the first safe and effective vaccine.
Both papers -- one published online July 28 in Science Express and one in the August issue of Infection and Immunity -- focus on aspects of the type-III pathway, a molecular syringe that Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that may have killed more people throughout history than any other infectious disease, uses to disable its hosts immune system.
"Yersinia pestis is the nastiest thing alive," said study author Olaf Schneewind, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chairman of microbiology at the University of Chicago and director of the Great Lakes Regional Center of Excellence in Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research (GLRCE). "Its the most virulent bacterial organism known to mankind. But we now know a little more about how it exercises those powers and we think we can use that knowledge to prepare a preemptive strike."
John Easton | EurekAlert!
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