Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Umeå scientist publishes new findings about origin of plague bacterium

29.04.2002


A team including researchers at the Total Defense Research Institute, NBC Defense, in Umeå, Sweden, and the Department of Molecular Biology, Umeå University, are publishing in this week’s issue of Science new findings that show that the protein Ymt is of crucial importance for the capacity of the plague bacterium to survive and spread the plague via flea vectors. Professor Åke Forsberg and visiting researcher Dr. Peter Cherepanov are studying the properties that enable the plague bacterium Yersinia pestis to cause life-threatening infections in animals and humans. Increased knowledge of the mechanisms that Y. pestis exploits to conquer the body’s immune defense can make it possible to develop new methods of treatment for serious infectious diseases.

Historically, the plague is one of our most feared infectious diseases. During the most wide-spread epidemic in the middle ages, also known as the Black Death, more than 25% of the European population died. Today the disease is not very common, with some 2,000 cases per year. The plague occurs primarily in Africa and Asia, but there are also a few cases in North America every year.

The bacteria are normally spread by fleas, first of all to rodents. Humans can also be infected by fleas. When the disease reaches the lungs of a human, the infection can be spread through the air to other people. The onset of the disease is rapid, with a high temperature and a headache. There is often an enlargement of the lymph glands located near the back of the jaw, which explains why it is also called the bubonic plague. Untreated, the infection quickly reaches the blood, leading to general blood poisoning. Mortality for untreated bubonic plague is over 50%. If the infection is spread by the air to the lungs, the course of the disease is even more rapid, and mortality for untreated lung plague is virtually 100%. The high rate of mortality, together with the rapid progression of the disease, places plague bacteria among those considered for use as a biological weapon.



Y. pestis is very closely related to another bacterium called Y. pseudotuberculosis. The plague bacterium evolved from Y. pseudotuberculosis as recently as 1,500 to 2,000 years ago. Y. pseudotuberculosis leads to a relatively mild stomach infection in humans.

The key to the capacity of the plague bacterium to cause fatal infections in humans lies in the differences between the two species of bacteria. The plague bacterium has two movable genetic elements, plasmids, that Y. pseudotuberculosis lacks. On one of these plasmids the research team has identified a gene that codes for a previously described “mouse toxin” that is seen as a major part of the explanation for the high potency of the plague bacterium in causing disease.

The researchers have now shown that the gene, Ymt, is not at all involved in the infection of animals but instead is absolutely crucial to the ability of the bacterium to survive in fleas and thereby to spread the disease further. The ability to spread the disease via fleas represents a decisive step in the development of the plague bacterium. Thus, this ability arose in connection with the acquisition of the plasmid that hosts the Ymt gene.

The Umeå scientists arrived at these findings in collaboration with researchers from the Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIH, Hamilton, and the University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Ulrika Bergfors Kriström | alphagalileo

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Team discovers how bacteria exploit a chink in the body's armor
20.01.2017 | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

nachricht Rabies viruses reveal wiring in transparent brains
19.01.2017 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>