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Scientists Find Potential Weakness In Plague Germ

s, but with no symptoms.

About 36 hours after exposure, the disease progresses into a second phase, with a lot of inflammation and symptoms. Bacteria invade the spleen and other organs and an overwhelming, rapidly developing pneumonia proves fatal.

The researchers focused on a protein known as plasminogen activator, which they think the bacterium uses to break open protective blood clots that the body forms to try to limit the spread of an infection.

They made a mutant version of Yersinia without that protein. When mice were exposed to it, the bacterium managed to begin infection normally but the disease never progressed into the second phase and the mice were not dying from pneumonia.

The mice did eventually die, but it took much longer and probably resulted from a bloodstream infection.

Goldman said the study indicated this protein is essential for the normal progression of pneumonic plague, and that without it the disease stalls in the first phase, perhaps giving antibiotics time to work.

The protein is a type called a protease that breaks down other proteins. Drugs called protease inhibitors targeting these proteins have been used against other infectious diseases, including AIDS.

According to the World Health Organization, about 1,000 to 3,000 cases of plague are reported every year with 10 to 15 cases in the United States every year.

Source: Bio-Bio Technology
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