Salmonella is serving up a surprise not only for tomato lovers around the country but also for scientists who study the rod-shaped bacterium that causes misery for millions of people.
In research published June 4 in the online journal PloS One, researchers say they've identified a molecular trick that may explain part of the bacteria's fierceness. A team from the University of Rochester Medical Center has identified a protein that allows the bacteria to maintain a low profile in the body, giving the bacteria crucial time to quietly gain a foothold in an organism before the immune system is roused to fight the invader.
"Inflammation immediately after a bacterial infection occurs helps the body fight off bugs like Salmonella quickly," said Jun Sun, Ph.D., the leader of the team and assistant professor of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. "But it may be that Salmonella is especially equipped with tools to allow it to evade the immune system early on, growing quietly and then really making the host quite ill. Salmonella is trickier than we imagined."
Sun's team found that a virulence protein known as AvrA dampens the inflammatory response. That helps the bacteria avoid the wrath of the immune system and gives the infection crucial time to grow and develop before it needs to expend energy to fight off immune cells like neutrophils, which would attack the intruder more quickly if the bacteria attacked the body in a more clear-cut fashion.
"AvrA allows Salmonella to make peace with you, buying the bacteria a little time to survive in the body," said Sun. "That's bad news for the body, because then the bacteria spreads. AvrA allows the bacteria to do harm in the body without the body realizing it. Bacteria have been evolving for millions of years. That gives them some tricks that perhaps we don't understand yet."
AvrA is one of several proteins in Salmonella that affect cells in the wall of the intestines and stomach k
|Contact: Tom Rickey|
University of Rochester Medical Center