The enemy within: Safeguarding against the spread of intracellular bacteria

Researchers from the School of Biomedical Sciences have identified the multiple, intertwined cell death systems that prevent the spread of the ‘intracellular’ bacterium Salmonella.

Professor Sammy Bedoui and Dr Paul Whitney from the School of Biomedical Sciences are part of a collaborative team that have discovered that the spread of Salmonella is curtailed by the death of infected cells, but surprisingly cells can die in several distinct ways.

Professor Sammy Bedoui from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology has been instrumental in the development of this research. Professor Bedoui heads a laboratory within the School of Biomedical Sciences, which examines how dendritic cells and T cells interact during infections, with a particular interest in deciphering how specific innate signals shape these interactions. Sammy’s work has shed new light into understanding how dendritic cells integrate multiple signals into protective immunity against infections.

Dr Paul Whitney is also from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology within the School of Biomedical Sciences. Dr Whitney’s research interests intersect with Professor Bedoui’s, with both researchers focusing on the application of models of viral and bacterial infection to study how the innate and the adaptive immune system interact.

Professor Bedoui noted that ‘cells have developed a range of defences against intracellular bacteria’ in a recent media release for the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity. “The rapid death of infected cells is an important protective strategy against intracellular bacteria. This stops the reproduction and spread of the bacteria, and can trigger protective immune defences at the site of the infection, which further control the infection,” Professor Bedoui said.

“Many proteins have been thought to be important for driving the death of bacteria-infected cells, which signal within cells and also degrade key components of the cell to bring about its death. However, there has been uncertainty about precisely how bacteria-infected cells die, the key molecules involved, and what this means for controlling an infection,” he said.

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