How flesh-eating bacteria attack the body

Aug. 14, 2008 at 3:32 PM

SAN DIEGO, Aug. 14 (UPI) -- "Flesh-eating" or "strep" bacteria are able to survive and spread in the body by degrading a key immune defense, U.S. researchers said.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, and Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences said the finding could aid in development of new treatments for serious infections in human patients.

Dr. Victor Nizet, University of California, San Diego and Rady Children's Hospital, San Diego, said the researchers showed that a protease known as SpyCEP produced in large amounts by the most dangerous strains of Strep -- inactivates an immune system molecule that controls the body's white blood cells ability to fight bacteria. Without signals from this molecule, white blood cells become slower and weaker, and infections can spread out of control, the researchers said.

The findings, published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe, suggest a new approach to treating serious Strep infections by supporting the body's natural defense system.

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