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Regina Bailey

Salmonella Evade Immune Responses

By March 15, 2012

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Salmonella Bacterium
Image: Janice Haney Carr/CDC

Salmonella is responsible for millions of foodborne illnesses each year. Now researchers have discovered how these bacteria avoid the body's immune system. Once inside the digestive tract, Salmonella and other bacteria need metal ions, such as zinc, to survive. When the germs are detected by the immune system, certain proteins are released that remove zinc and other ions from the area. The researchers discovered that Salmonella counter this action by producing bacterial proteins that enable them to take in zinc in spite of the reduced available amount.

According to lead researcher Manuela Raffatellu, "We're beginning to learn more about the mechanisms that allow pathogens like Salmonella to evade our natural defenses and make us sick. In light of this, if we can devise therapies that block the acquisition of zinc and other metals by Salmonella specifically, we can fight this infection." Salmonellosis, an illness caused by Salmonella, can be contracted by eating contaminated food. Symptoms of Salmonella infection include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

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