Infection :: UAB researchers discover process of GBS infection formation

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) collaborated with Researcher Hung Ton-That, Ph.D., from the University of Connecticut to discover important information about Group B Streptococus (GBS), a bacterium that causes serious, life-threatening infection, especially in infants and the elderly.

?GBS infection happens once pathogens enter the bloodstream and colonize by using protein filaments called pili to stick to host tissues,? said Narayana Sthanam, Ph.D., associate professor of optometry at UAB and principal investigator on this study. ?We initiated structural studies on the composition and assembly of GBS pili, to understand the mode in which the pathogen attaches to the host. Our findings enhance the knowledge of GBS and bring us a small step closer to inhibiting GBS infections.?

About 10 to 35 percent of healthy adults carry GBS, but many don?t realize it because they experience no symptoms, Sthanam said. However, GBS bacteria can invade the bloodstream and cause sepsis, meningitis and pneumonia. The bacteria cause serious infection in more than 15,000 people in the United States each year. Of these, 8,000 are infants. Ten percent of infants die from GBS infection, and 20 percent of those who survive are left permanently handicapped.

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