"We have also discovered that this novel combination of enzymes is present in a wide variety of bacteria and that it has a direct impact on the infectivity of human pathogens."
Dr Geoff Baldwin from Imperial's Division of Molecular Biosciences added: "The wide importance of DNA repair to the viability of all organisms is well established. However, for the first time this research shows an important role for DNA repair in meningitides fighting off the attack of the body's immune system.
"We have examined two enzymes from a family that are known to cut the DNA during its repair. To our surprise we discovered that in the meningitis bacteria, one of the enzymes does not cut the DNA. Instead, it removes damaged DNA ends that prevent the DNA from being remade during the repair process. This has an important impact for our understanding of the precise pathways of DNA repair and the significance of the two separate functionalities that act in different DNA repair pathways within the pathogen."
Professor Christoph Tang from Imperial's Division of Investigative Science added: "After realising that the two enzymes had distinct roles repairing different types of DNA damage, were able show the pathogen can 'fend off' different types of DNA damage while in the bloodstream. In theory, finding some way of disabling these enzymes would render the bacteria unable to repair itself, and therefore vulnerable to attack and defeat by the body's immune system."
Source:Imperial College London