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Surprising infection inducing mechanism found in bacteria
Date:5/18/2010

A research appearing in Nature, with the participation of doctors Susana Campoy and Jordi Barb from the Department of Genetics and Microbiology at UAB, demonstrates that bacteria have a surprising mechanism to transfer virulent genes causing infections. The research describes an unprecedented evolutionary adaptation and could contribute to finding new ways of treating and preventing bacterial infections.

Pathogenic genes are responsible for making bacteria capable of causing diseases. These genes cause bacteria to produce specific types of toxins and determine whether or not a disease will later develop in an individual. These virulent genes can be passed from one bacteria to another if the genome segments containing them, known as pathogenicity islands, are transferred from one to another.

A team of researchers from Universitat Autnoma de Barcelona, together with members of the CSIC Institute for Agrobiotechnology, Public University of Navarre, Virginia Commonwealth University, and New York University Medical Center, coordinated by the Valencian Institute for Agronomic Research (IVIA) and CEU-Cardenal Herrera University, have studied the mechanisms producing virulence in staphylococcus bacteria and causing the Toxic Shock Syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal illness in 50% of the cases.

Researchers observed how pathogenicity islands underwent an unprecedented evolutionary adaptation to be able to transfer pathogens to other innocuous bacteria and thus transform them into virulent bacteria.

Under normal conditions, pathogenicity islands produce the protein Stl, which binds to the DNA segment containing virulent genes and represses the transfer of the island. However, sometimes bacteria become infected with a virus which packages and transfers these virulent genes to other bacteria.

Scientists have discovered that these islands can detect the presences of a virus, eliminate the repression produced by Stl,
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Contact: Maria Jesus Delgado
MariaJesus.Delgado@uab.cat
34-935-814-049
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
Source:Eurekalert

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