Neonatal meningitis is reliant on the survival of the Escherichia coli K1bacterium in the host’s immune cells reports a paper in Nature Communications this week. This work may have implications for the design of strategies in the prevention of neonatal meningitis. The majority of cases of neonatal meningitis are caused by the bacterium E.coli K1. Nemani Prasadarao and Rahul Mittal now show that the bacterium binds to a protein, gp96, expressed on host immune cells called neutrophils that are important in the detection of bacteria. Binding of the bacteria to these immune cells prevents their ability to produce reactive oxygen species, permitting the survival of the bacterium within neutrophils. They find that mice lacking neutrophils or with reduced levels of gp96 are resistant to E.coli K1 infection. This discovery suggests that preventing the interaction of the bacteria with neutrophils may be a useful strategy for preventing the disease.
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