Study reveals E. coli's secret weapon in launching infections

phys.org | 8/16/2019 | Staff
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Most types of Escherichia coli are harmless, but the ones that aren't can cause severe life-threatening diarrhea. These problematic bacteria launch infections by inducing intestinal cells to form tiny structures, called pedestals, that anchor the pathogens in place and help the colonies grow.

This week in mBio, microbiologists describe an Achilles heel for disabling pedestal formation. Lab experiments on enteropathogenic and enterohemorrhagic E. Coli (EPEC and EHEC) showed that when the pathogens were prevented from injecting a protein called EspG into intestinal hosts, the hosts were slower and less effective in producing pedestals that fixed the bacteria in place. Further investigations revealed the cellular pathways hijacked by EspG.

Findings - Mechanics - Infection - Avenues - Treatment

The findings can help reveal the mechanics of infection and suggest new avenues of treatment, said microbiologist and study co-leader Peter Hume, Ph.D, at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

"By learning how these pathways work, we think we can develop new ways of interfering with the infection process," he said.

Worldwide - Children - Die - Year - Diarrheal

Worldwide, more than 500,000 children die every year from diarrheal diseases, and pathogenic strains of E. Coli are among the most common causes, according to the World Health Organizations. But treating these infections can be tricky. Using antibiotics to treat a person with EHEC, for example, can trigger the bacteria to release Shiga toxin, which can lead to a life-threatening infection similar to sepsis. That means health care providers need treatments other than antimicrobials to keep these infections in check, Hume said.

Researchers have long known that pathogenic E. coli injects its host with a variety...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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