Basic research is helping scientists to better understand how microbes spread by contaminated food or water cause disease in humans.
NIAID-supported researchers are studying the bacterial genes that help pathogens (germs) establish themselves in the human body and cause disease. For example, scientists have identified genes that appear to be involved in signaling certain immune system cells to cause inflammation and may contribute to the development of diarrhea.
Other NIAID-sponsored research focuses on methods by which the organism grows and interacts in cells. Scientists have discovered that some intestinal bacteria recognize when they are in a human and respond by activating a particular set of powerful genes that enable the organism to live in the body and cause disease. Future studies will define new ways to intervene, whether by prevention or treatment, in the disease process.
Scientists have determined the complete genome (genetic blueprint) sequences for Salmonella typhi, S. typhimurium, C. jejuni, and Escherichia coli 0157:H7. Sequencing studies are under way for Shigella, Yersinia, as well as other harmful strains of E. coli. Scientists hope this new information will speed the discovery of new targets for treatments and vaccines against foodborne pathogens.
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Last Updated February 26, 2007