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Nanoparticle That Mimics Red Blood Cell Shows Promise as Vaccine for Bacterial Infections

A nanoparticle wrapped in material taken from the membranes of red blood cells could become the basis for vaccines against a range of infectious bacteria, including MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), an infection that kills tens of thousands of people every year.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have shown that the nanoparticles, loaded with a common bacterial toxin and injected into mice, can induce an immune response that protects the animals against a subsequent lethal dose of the toxin. The toxins, which are proteins the bacteria secrete, are “pore-forming,” meaning they target cell membranes in the host and poke severely damaging holes in them. The proteins are secreted by a class of microbes called gram-positive bacteria, which in addition to Staphylococcus aureus includes clostridium, listeria, strep, E. coli, and a range of other infectious bugs.

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