E. coli is one of millions of bacterial species that live in our gut. From when we are infants, E. coli dwells peacefully in the lower intestine, maintaining a give-and-take relationship with our body – it helps the gut digest food, and gets energy to live and reproduce in return.
However, the normally harmless bacterium can quickly evolve into a deadly form that can cause severe food poisoning, infection, and sometimes death. This can happen especially when it leaves the gut and enters our blood stream.
Scientists have long tried to figure out how this mild bacterium morphs into a killer. A new study published in PLOS Pathogens throws some light on this process of transformation.
The researchers in the study found that a key factor that triggers this transformation is contact with the body’s immune cells called macrophages. Macrophages help kill dangerous bacteria or viruses by eating and digesting them.