Genetic evidence for single bacteria cause of sepsis identified for the first time
An international team of academics, including Professor Marco Oggioni (pictured) from the Department of Genetics, has studied how localised infections can turn into the dangerous systematic disease sepsis – and has identified for the first time through genetic evidence that a single bacteria could be the cause.
The study, which has been published in the academic journal PLOS Pathogens, examined the events that lead to sepsis by Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus), a major human pathogen, in mice. They found that in most cases the bacteria causing sepsis was started by a single pneumococcal cell.
Their findings suggest that if bacteria survive the immune system's initial counter-attack, a single ‘founder’ bacterium multiplies and re-enters the bloodstream, where its descendants come under strong selective pressure that dynamically shapes the subsequent bacterial population – resulting in the sepsis.
The study was an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Departments of Genetics, Infection Immunity and Inflammation and Mathematics at the University of Leicester, Professor Richard Moxon at the University of Oxford and scientists from overseas including the University of Siena.