A new study in the July 18 issue of The Journal of Experimental Medicine shows that gold-colored bacteria are more harmful than their unpigmented relatives. A group of scientists led by Victor Nizet (UCSD, San Diego, CA) have discovered that the molecules that give certain bugs their color also help them resist attack by immune cells called neutrophils.
Scientists and clinicians have known for many years that gold-colored strains of a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus tend to be cause more disease than colorless strains. The color of these bugs comes from anti-oxidant molecules called carotenoids. Similar molecules also give carrots their color and are often touted for their ability to boost the immune system.
Nizet and colleagues now show that these pigmented molecules help S. aureus defuse damaging molecules that are produced by neutrophils in order to kill the bacteria. When the researchers removed the carotenoids from the bacteria, they became more vulnerable to immune attack. Nizet suggests that drugs that inhibit carotenoid synthesis might be useful for treating S. aureus infections, which can quickly develop resistance to traditional antibiotics.
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Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
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