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NIH scientists describe how salmonella bacteria spread in humans
Date:9/30/2010

New findings by National Institutes of Health scientists could explain how Salmonella bacteria, a common cause of food poisoning, efficiently spread in people. In a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers describe finding a reservoir of rapidly replicating Salmonella inside epithelial cells. These bacteria are primed to infect other cells and are pushed from the epithelial layer by a new mechanism that frees the Salmonella to infect other cells or be shed into the intestine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that Salmonella infections sicken 40,000 people each year in the United States, though the actual number of infections is likely much higher because many cases are mild and not diagnosed or reported. Currently, Salmonella is the focus of an ongoing U.S. public health investigation into contaminated chicken eggs.

"Unfortunately, far too many people have experienced the debilitating effects of Salmonella, which cause disease via largely unexplained processes, including overactive inflammatory responses," says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). "This elegant study provides new insight into the origins of that inflammatory disease process."

While much is known about the human infectious cycle of Salmonella, scientists have yet to understand how the bacteria escape the gut to spread infection. Epithelial cells line the outer and inner surfaces of the body, such as the skin and gut, and form a continuous protective tissue against infection. But Salmonella have learned how to live inside epithelial cells and use them for their benefit. Salmonella protect themselves within special membrane-bound compartments, called vacuoles, inside gut epithelial cells.

Using special high-resolution microscopes to view laboratory-grown human intestinal epithelial cells and laboratory mice in
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Contact: Ken Pekoc
kpekoc@niaid.nih.gov
301-402-1663
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Source:Eurekalert

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