Like a well-trained soldier with honed survival skills, the common bacterium, Group A Streptococcus (GAS), sometimes can endure battle with our inborn (innate) immune system and cause widespread disease. By investigating the ability of combat-ready white blood cells (WBCs) to ingest and kill GAS, researchers have discovered new insights into how this disease-causing bacteria can evade destruction by the immune system. The research is being published this week in the Online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,USA at http://www.pnas.org/papbyrecent.shtml.
Frank DeLeo, Ph.D., tenure-track investigator in the Laboratory of Human Bacterial Pathogenesis, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, MT, directed the study. "This is the first genome-scale look at GAS genes that are differentially expressed during interaction with the human innate immune system," he says. "We are excited about our findings and how they may lead to further investigation of therapeutics that can protect us from this major human pathogen." According to Dr. DeLeo, this type of study is the next logical application of microbial genomics.
An estimated 15 million new cases of noninvasive GAS infections occur in the United States each year, with a direct health care cost of $2 billion. The noninvasive and milder types of infection, primarily strep throat and skin infections, occur mostly in children between the ages of 5 and 14 years old. Elementary school-aged children are at highest risk for noninvasive disease. In 2000, the reported incidence of the more serious invasive GAS disease, which includes streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS), cellulitis, pneumonia, bacteremia and necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease), was 8,800 cases and 1,000 deaths. The elderly, immunosuppressed, persons with chronic cardiac or respiratory disease or diabetes, African Americans, American Indians and persons with skin lesions (for example, children with chickenpox and intravenous drug users) have increased risk for GAS invasive disease.
Walter Mitton | EurekAlert!
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