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Molecule aids fight E. Coli Infections

According to researchers, they have identified a key mechanism disease-fighting cells which are used to swallow a common microbe that can impose havoc with the digestive system and which has been implicated in many outbreaks of food poisoning.An analysis of the defense tactics of the immune system of the fruitfly Drosophila led investigators to pinpoint a molecule that engineers search-and-destroy missions by white blood cells called macrophages against// the Escherichia coli bacteria.

Most E. coli strains are harmless, but the variety toxic to humans can inflame intestinal walls, leading to serious illness and even death. In 1000, health officials in 20 states reported 1,800 confirmed cases of infection by the foodborne pathogen, 150 of which required hospitalization and four of which proved fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

While the majority of E.coli outbreaks have involved ground beef, the bacteria also have tainted unpasteurized apple and orange juice, unpasteurized milk, alfalfa sprouts and water. As members of the body's extensive and highly coordinated warrior forces that fight such infectious agents, macrophages destroy the enemy by ingesting it in a process called phagocytosis. The researchers detailed these defensive maneuvers in fruitflies in an advance online publication of the British journal Nature.

"The basic templates of how organisms protect themselves against infection go back millions of years in evolution, so we can learn lessons from flies that apply to humans," said senior study author R. Alan Ezekowitz, Charles Wilder Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, head of the Laboratory of Developmental Immunology and chief of pediatrics at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston.

"In this study we look at a very ancient but very important process: how bacteria are recognized and eaten by immune cells called phagocytes," a contingent that includes
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