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New Findings On Killer Bacteria’s Defence

New research from Lund University casts new light on the interaction between the immune system and streptococcus bacteria, which cause both mild tonsillitis and serious infections such as sepsis and necrotising fasciitis. The way in which antibodies attach to the bacteria is linked to how serious the disease is.

Antibodies are key to the recognition and neutralisation of bacteria by our immune system. The most common antibodies have the shape of a Y, and the two prongs fasten to molecules that belong to the bacteria. The cells in the immune system recognise the shaft and can then attack the bacteria.

Since the 1960s, it has been known that certain bacteria have developed the ability to turn these antibodies around, which makes it more difficult for the immune system to identify them. These include streptococcus bacteria, sometimes referred to as 'killer bacteria', that cause both common tonsillitis and more serious diseases such as sepsis (blood poisoning) and necrotising fasciitis (flesh-eating disease). Because it has not been possible to study this phenomenon in detail, researchers have until now presumed that antibodies are always turned around in these streptococcal infections.
 
 

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