Flesh Eating Bacteria
There are signs that flesh eating bacteria, in common with our many other bacterial foes, are developing resistance to antibiotics. However, the study of the genetics of these harmful bacteria and how they work at the molecular level will equip science with new strategies and therapeutics to wipe them out. If you know how the enemy operates you can design weapons that will bring about its destruction.
Scientists from the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine and Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences have discovered just how Streptococcus pyogenes is able to evade the immune system response and spread throughout the body. It appears that a protease known as SpyCEP (Streptococcus pyogenes cell envelope protease) inactivates and degrades a key molecule that controls the ability of white blood cells to fight bacteria. In the face of this onslaught white blood cells become slow and weak. But when the scientists knocked out a gene encoding SpyCEP the flesh eating bacteria were easily destroyed by neutrophils.
Another way of potentially neutralising the effect of these harmful bacteria could be by stimulating the body's immune system via a vaccine. Another team of researchers (also from UC San Diego) has been looking at Streptococcus M protein, which is critical to its virulence. They inoculated mice with a stable version of the protein and it stimulated their immune systems, providing hope that a similar reaction could be see in humans if a vaccine is developed.
As with any study of harmful bacteria, the more we know about their biological make up, and how they cause disease the better will be our defences and weapons.