Monday, 9 September 2013

Bacteria help to make painful skin infections 'more painful'

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The pain of invasive skin infections caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus appears to be partly induced by the invading bacteria themselves.
One reason why bacterial skin infections are so painful is because once the pain neurons "sense" the bacteria, they suppress the immune system, potentially helping the bacteria become more virulent. This is the inference drawn from a new research study.
The idea for the study began after scientists were culturing sensory neurons and immune cells together in a dish to see how they interact during an infection. The found that the neurons responded to bacteria. The study was conducted using mice.
For the study, the scientists examined pain, tissue swelling, immune cell numbers and the number of live bacteria in mice with staphylococcal skin infections. What they found was that pain levels tracked closely with the number of live bacteria and peaked well before tissue swelling peaked. The next stage of the research showed that staphylococcal bacteria secrete two kinds of compounds that communicate with sensory neurons, inducing pain.
Considering the implications of the study, the report's authors think that If medics could one day block pain in infected tissues and also block what pain neurons do to the immune system, then this could help to treat bacterial infections more effectively. Specifically, the findings suggest possible new approaches for blocking pain signaling.
The research was carried out at the Boston Children's Hospital. The findings have been published in the journal Nature. The paper is titled "Bacteria activate sensory neurons that modulate pain and inflammation."

Posted by Tim Sandle