SAN DIEGO (July 15, 2012) Despite ongoing public health efforts, E. coli outbreaks continue to infiltrate the food supply, annually causing significant sickness and death throughout the world. But the research community is gaining ground. In a major finding, published today in the scientific journal Nature, researchers from the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology have discovered a molecule's previously unknown role in fighting off E. coli and other bacterial infections, a discovery that could lead to new ways to protect people from these dangerous microorganisms.
"We've found that a certain molecule, known as HVEM, expressed by the cells lining the surface of the lung and intestine, is critical to protecting the body from E. coli, pneumococcus and other bacterial infections that enter our bodies through the lining of our respiratory or intestinal tracts," said Mitchell Kronenberg, Ph.D., La Jolla Institute's president and chief scientific officer, who led the research team. "We discovered that HVEM acts in these cells like a border guard that responds to the presence of invasive bacteria and signals the immune system to send in more troops. Without its involvement as part of the epithelial protective barrier, the body could be overrun by certain disease causing bacteria," said Dr. Kronenberg, adding that he is hopeful the discovery will advance efforts toward developing new treatments or vaccines against bacterial infections.
"People knew that epithelial cells protect the body's mucosal borders from infection," said Dr. Kronenberg. "But what wasn't known was that HVEM is critically important in turning on the epithelial cell anti-bacterial response." Epithelial cells line the body's mucosal borders, which include the mouth, nose, intestines and lungs and are the most common entry points for infectious pathogens. "We found that HVEM and another receptor (the receptor for IL-22) have to act toget
|Contact: Bonnie Ward|
La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology