New findings from OMRF may shed light on why anthrax is so deadly to humans. The research could also lead to new therapies to fight the deadly bacteria.
About 92 percent of patients who inhale anthrax spore die from exposure to the lethal bacteria. Still, scientists aren’t sure why this is the case, said OMRF scientist Mark Coggeshall, Ph.D.
“With treatment, the survival rate is better, but they’re still not great odds,” he said. “Until we understand why people get so sick from anthrax, finding better treatments will be difficult.”
In a new paper published in the Cutting Edge section of the Journal of Immunology, Coggeshall and collaborator Janaki Iyer, Ph.D., of OMRF, explain the progress they’ve made in understanding how the bacteria cause an immune response—a point of contention among scientists studying all bacteria, including anthrax.
“This is not just an academic finding,” said Coggeshall. “Our results offer new points of attack against the bacteria that infect people.”
The work has relevance to other bacterial infections, because all bacteria have the same chemical—called peptidoglycan—in their cell walls. By better understanding how bacteria cause an immune response, scientists may be able to devise new treatments or find ways to prevent some bacterial infections.
Coggeshall’s research is part of a $14 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases which was awarded to OMRF to study anthrax. Other studies funded by the grant at OMRF are investigating the human immune response to the anthrax vaccine, including which cells make antibodies that could fight the bacteria.