A single gene called cylE within the important bacterial pathogen Group B Streptococcus (GBS), controls two factors that act together as a "sword" and "shield" to protect the bacteria from the killing effects of the immune systems white blood cells, according to researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine.
GBS is the leading cause of serious bacterial infections such as meningitis and pneumonia in newborns and is increasingly recognized as a serious pathogen in adult populations, including the elderly, pregnant women and diabetics.
In studies with mice and human blood samples, published in the online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of September 20, 2004, the UCSD scientists demonstrated the protective roles of two cylE-encoded factors, one that creates the unusual orange pigmentation of GBS, and another that produces a toxin called hemolysin that kills immune system cells as they surround and attack the bacteria. These findings could lead to new therapeutic approaches that disarm the bacteria and allow the immune system to do its work.
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