New way bacterial infections spread in the body: Hitchhiking on our own immune cells

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Science Daily.

Bacteria have evolved thousands of clever tactics for invading our bodies while evading our natural defenses. Now, UNC School of Medicine scientists studying one of the world’s most virulent pathogens and a separate very common bacterium have discovered a new way that some bacteria can spread rapidly throughout the body — by hitchhiking on our own immune cells.

The new UNC School of Medicine study, titled “Trogocytosis-associated cell to cell spread of intracellular bacterial pathogens,” published online in the journal eLife, shows that at least two bacterial species are capable of spreading in this manner: Francisella tularensis (F. tularensis), which causes a potentially lethal infection known as tularemia, and Salmonella enterica, a common cause of foodborne illness. The discovery offers a potential way to fight bacterial infections without contributing to one of the world’s most pressing public health problems — antibiotic resistance.

“More and more, we’ve been looking for ways to control disease without specific antimicrobial therapies, because pathogens inevitably develop resistance to those,” said Tom Kawula, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology and senior author. “By figuring out this new way pathogens can disseminate within a host, we can now try to inhibit the host processes involved. If we…

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