Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Fatal Attachment
03 June 2016

Fatal Attachment

Every day we’re under attack. The enemy – bacteria – make their way in through sticky surfaces in our nose, throat, lungs, guts and genitals, attaching to the cells and starting an infection. To combat this assault, humans and other animals have evolved a handy defence strategy: the cells lining these tissues are quickly shed, along with any attached bacteria. This image shows the top layer of cells in a mouse’s vagina lifting off following attack by E. coli bacteria (small red rods), which can cause persistent infections. But this isn’t enough to win the war, as the invaders have come up with a cunning counter-attack. Researchers have discovered that these bugs can stop infected cells being shed, giving them more time to settle down and cause disease. Figuring out how bacteria suppress cell shedding, and how to enhance it, could open up a new front in our arms race against infection.

Written by Kat Arney

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