Tuesday, 3 April 2018

A protein helps bacteria outsmart the human immune system


New research has uncovered a mechanism by which the bacteria that cause Lyme disease fight innate immune responses, and observed a never-before-seen phenomena demonstrating the bacteria can spring back in the body weeks later. Understanding this type of bacteria, one of only a few pathogens that can actually persist in the body for long periods of time, has major implications for treatment of tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease.

Researchers have uncovered a mechanism by which the bacteria that cause Lyme disease persist in the human body and fight the body's early, innate immune responses. Dr. Utpal Pal, Professor in Veterinary Medicine at the University of Maryland (UMD), has been studying the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria throughout his 12 years with UMD, and his work has already produced the protein marker used to identify this bacterial infection in the body. Now, Dr. Pal has isolated a protein produced by the bacteria that disables one of the body's first immune responses, giving insight into mechanisms that are largely not understood.

He has also observed a never-before-seen phenomena demonstrating that even without this protein and with the immune system responding perfectly, the bacteria can spring back in the body weeks later. Understanding this type of bacteria, which is among only a few pathogens that can actually persist in the body for long periods of time, has major implications for the treatment of tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease, which is an increasingly chronic and consistently prevalent public health issue.

Dr. Pal's research has shed some light on this issue and paved the way for future research and treatment options by discovering that even without the protein used to beat the first wave of immune defense, infection can reoccur in the body weeks later.

See:

Quentin Bernard, Alexis A. Smith, Xiuli Yang, Juraj Koci, Shelby D. Foor, Sarah D. Cramer, Xuran Zhuang, Jennifer E. Dwyer, Yi-Pin Lin, Emmanuel F. Mongodin, Adriana Marques, John M. Leong, Juan Anguita, Utpal Pal. Plasticity in early immune evasion strategies of a bacterial pathogen. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018; 201718595 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1718595115

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

Special offers