Breakthrough in the treatment of bacterial meningitis

May 13, 2009

It can take just hours after the symptoms appear for someone to die from bacterial meningitis. Now, after years of research, experts at The University of Nottingham have finally discovered how the deadly meningococcal bacteria is able to break through the body's natural defence mechanism and attack the brain.

The discovery could lead to better treatment and vaccines for meningitis and could save the lives of hundreds of children.

in childhood is almost exclusively caused by the respiratory tract pathogens , Neisseria meningitidis, and Haemophilus influenzae. The mechanism used by these lethal germs to break through the blood brain barrier (BBB) has, until now, been unknown.

The team led by Dlawer Ala'Aldeen, Professor of Clinical Microbiology and Head of the Molecular Bacteriology and Immunology Group at the Centre for Biomolecular Sciences, recently discovered that all three pathogens target the same receptor on human cerebrovascular endothelial cells — the specialised filtering system that protects our brain from disease — enabling the organisms to cross the blood-brain barrier.

Their findings, published today in The , suggest that disruption or modulation of this interaction of bacterial adhesins with the receptor might offer unexpectedly broad protection against bacterial meningitis and may provide a therapeutic target for the prevention and treatment of disease.

Professor Ala'Aldeen, who has been studying meningitis and its causes for over 20 years, said: "This is a significant breakthrough which will help us design novel strategies for the prevention and treatment of bacterial meningitis. Identification of the human receptor and bacterial ligands is like identifying a mysterious key and its lock, which will open new doors and pave the way for new discoveries."

The research, carried out in collaboration with the Department of Infectious Diseases at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis Tennessee, also involved students from the University who have been regular and willing volunteers in the research programme.

Professor Ala'Aldeen said: "The ultimate aim is to save lives by protecting the healthy and curing the sick. We are one step closer to new breakthroughs that would prevent disease or its complications. There still is a long way to go before we have the ultimate vaccine and the ultimate treatment of bacterial meningitis."

Source: University of Nottingham (news : web)

Explore further: The impact of bacteria in our guts

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

FDA expands meningitis vaccine approval

Oct 22, 2007

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expanded approval for the use of Menactra, a bacterial meningitis vaccine, to children ages 2 to 10.

Recommended for you

The impact of bacteria in our guts

14 hours ago

The word metabolism gets tossed around a lot, but it means much more than whether you can go back to the buffet for seconds without worrying about your waistline. In fact, metabolism is the set of biochemical ...

Stem cell therapies hold promise, but obstacles remain

14 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—In an article appearing online today in the journal Science, a group of researchers, including University of Rochester neurologist Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., review the potential and ch ...

New hope in fight against muscular dystrophy

15 hours ago

Research at Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology offers hope to those who suffer from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, an incurable, debilitating disease that cuts young lives short.

Biologists reprogram skin cells to mimic rare disease

Aug 21, 2014

Johns Hopkins stem cell biologists have found a way to reprogram a patient's skin cells into cells that mimic and display many biological features of a rare genetic disorder called familial dysautonomia. ...

User comments : 0