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Researchers uncover key biomolecule involved in whooping cough infection

Date: 27.3.2024 

Bordetella pertussis is the cause of the respiratory infection pertussis, which is widely known as whooping cough. Today's pertussis vaccines keep people from getting severely sick, but they don't eliminate the bacteria because it excels at colonizing, growing and persisting inside the nose.

Kredit: Yang Su, University of Georgia in Athens; created with BioRender.com.In a previous study, Yang Su at the University of Georgia in Athens and his coleagues discovered that a glycan known as transmission extracellular polysaccharide (tEPS) was required for Bordetella to spread among hosts. They then discovered that the production of tEPS glycan was related to another group of genes. The investigators suspected that this new group of genes likely produced another glycan, but nothing was known about its function or structure.

In the new work, the researchers eliminated the genes that expressed this unknown glycan from bacteria to see if they could uncover its function. The resulting Bordetella mutant showed a 70% reduction in its ability to colonize the nose of mice within six hours of inoculation. The mutant also showed a significantly reduced ability to transmit from the original host to a new host.

The researchers discovered that this new glycan, which they named Bordetella colonization oligosaccharide, or b-Cool, is found in multiple Bordetella species, including those infecting dogs and other animals, as well as in strains of Bordetella pertussis isolated from patients. This suggests that targeting b-Cool could lead to the development of vaccines and medications that would be effective against both animal and human infections.

Image source: Yang Su, University of Georgia in Athens; created with BioRender.com.




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