"It's like the enemy entering into a battlefield and knowing exactly where the landmines are and diffusing them all," Ganta said.
Over the last five years, Ganta's research team has been working under a prior federal grant, also from the National Institutes of Health, to uncover exactly how the bacteria works. They recreated the bacteria using cells from mice and from ticks. The current study revealed that the tick cells are what made the difference, and that the tick's ecology changes the bacteria by adding proteins, enabling bacteria to slip by the immune system.
"Understanding the molecular basis for persistence by these bacteria has been critical in developing effective methods to control this and other tick-borne pathogens," Ganta said. "Our research is focused on understanding the pathogen evasion mechanisms, and then using those to defeat it."
The trick now is to learn how to turn those proteins off, leaving the bacteria vulnerable, Ganta said. That's the research his new grant will fund.
Ganta said that tick-borne pathogens like ehrlichia chaffeensis have long been recognized as a persistent concern for the health of several companion animals and livestock. The number of cases in humans has also risen in recent years, increasing the threat to public health.
The hope is that once Ganta comes up with a way to fight off the bacteria, that will pave the way for solutions to other forms of ehrlichia, some of which are devastating for cattle and other food animals.
The $1,825,000 grant is for five years of study at $365,000 a year.
|Contact: Roman Ganta|
Kansas State University