Louisville Researchers Are Unmasking an Old Foe’s Tricks to Thwart New Diseases

Research team awarded grants for further research on plague-causing bacteria, including roles of LTB4 lipid and extracellular vesicles (EVs).

Yersinia pestis

When the body encounters bacteria, viruses, or harmful substances, its innate immune cells, neutrophils, assemble at the site to combat the invader. Bacteria and viruses have ways to avoid these defenses, however. Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that causes bubonic and pneumonic plague, for example, can hide from the immune system, allowing the pathogen to replicate in the body unhindered until it can overwhelm the host. This ability allowed Y. pestis to spread bubonic plague across Europe in the 14th Century, killing a third of the European population. While plague may not be a serious threat to human health in modern times, researchers at the University of Louisville (UofL) are studying Y. pestis to better understand its ability to evade the immune system and apply that understanding to control other pathogens.

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