Bodies’ natural defence against bacteria discovered at Lund
Researchers in dermatology at Lund University in Sweden believe they have cracked the mystery of why our bodies can quickly prevent an infection from spreading uncontrollably during wounding. They believe this knowledge may be significant in developing new ways to counteract bacteria.
Shepherding the bacteria
“Perhaps we don’t need to kill them with antibiotics but simply gather them so that the body can better take care of the infection”, considers researchers Jitka Petrlova and Artur Schmidtchen at Lund University. The study was conducted in close collaboration with their colleagues in Lund, Copenhagen and Singapore.
The researchers have discovered that fragments of thrombin – a common blood protein found in wounds – can aggregate both bacteria and their toxins in wounds; something they did not see in normal blood plasma. The aggregation takes place quickly in the wound and causes bacteria and endotoxins to not only congregate, but also be “eaten” by the body’s inflammatory cells.
“This way, the body avoids a spread of the infection. We believe this to be a fundamental mechanism for taking care of both bacteria and their toxins during wound healing”, says Jitka Petrlova.
She continues, “Our discovery links aggregation and amyloid formation to our primary defence against infections – our innate immunity. It is well known that various aggregating proteins can cause amyloid disease in skin or internal organs, such as the brain. Therefore, a mechanism that is supposed to protect us from infections, can sometimes be over-activated and lead to degenerative diseases.”
Nature knows best
Artur Schmidtchen, who has conducted extensive research in the field of innate immunity for over a period of 20 years, is pleased with the results of the study. He comments:
“I have always been fascinated by how nature has effectively created different defence mechanisms, and wound healing provides a rich source of new discoveries. The ability to effectively heal wounds is of evolutionary significance to our survival. Compared to antibiotics, innate immunity has been around for millions of years – and I think we should consider the application of these concepts in an era of increasing antibiotic resistance.”