A protein in Salmonella inactivates mast cells -- critical players in the body's fight against bacteria and other pathogens -- rendering them unable to protect against bacterial spread in the body, according to researchers at Duke Medicine and Duke-National University of Singapore (Duke-NUS).
The study, conducted in mice, was published Dec. 12, 2013, in the journal Immunity.
"Ever since mast cells were discovered to be critical mobilizers of the body's powerful immune system, it has always been suspected that certain pathogens would have evolved mechanisms directed at undermining this cell," said senior study author Soman N. Abraham, Ph.D., professor of pathology, immunology, and molecular genetics and microbiology at Duke Medicine and professor of emerging infectious diseases at Duke-NUS.
Salmonella bacteria are a leading cause of foodborne illness. According to the CDC, approximately 42,000 cases of Salmonella infection are reported each year in the United States, but since many mild cases are not diagnosed, the number is likely much higher. Often transmitted through contaminated eggs, meat, raw fruits and vegetables, a 2012 Salmonella outbreak linked to cantaloupe sickened hundreds of people across 24 states.