Scientists at The University of Sheffield have discovered how a hospital superbug evades the immune system to cause infection.
The Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology focused on Enterococcus faecalis (E. faecalis) causes life-threatening infections.
Found in the human digestive tract, the bug is harmless in healthy carriers.
It often causes heart valve infections, urinary tract infections and bacteraemia (the presence of bacteria in the blood).
It is not completely understood why it causes these infections, and treatment is difficult as it is highly resistant to antibiotics and key parts of the immune system.
The research was led by Dr Stéphane Mesnage and the team have discovered a mechanism used by the bug to hide from the immune system.
They found the bug changes its surface in order to evade the immune system, allowing the infection to spread.
Dr Mesnage said: “Our work suggests that targeting the mechanism that modifies the surface could be a novel strategy for developing new treatments to fight E. faecalis infections.”
It’s hoped these findings will be influential in the future for fighting the bug.
The research has been published in the journal PLoS Pathogens.