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Strep B Seems to Trick Immune System

Finding could lead to better treatment of sepsis, meningitis in newborns

MONDAY, July 13 (HealthDay News) -- A bacterial pathogen that causes sepsis and meningitis in newborns shuts down immune cell function to ensure its survival, a new study shows.

The findings about Group B Streptococcus (GBS) may help lead to new drugs for infectious diseases that affect about 3,500 newborns in the United States each year, said the researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

They found that GBS dupes the immune system into reducing production of antibiotic molecules.

"We have discovered that the bacteria have evolved to use a trick we call 'molecular mimicry.' Like a wolf in sheep's clothing, GBS can enter our body without activating the immune cells that are normally programmed to kill foreign invaders," Dr. Victor Nizet, a professor of pediatrics and pharmacy at UC San Diego, said in a news release.

The study appeared online July 13 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

In addition to causing infections in newborns, GBS is associated with serious infections in pregnant women, adult diabetics and the elderly.

More information

The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia has more about GBS infections in newborns.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of California, San Diego, news release, July 13, 2009

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