Researchers have unravelled a key stage in the progression of meningococcal infection.
A study led by Guillaume Duménil at the Institut Pasteur, Paris, discovered that the meningococcal bacteria can form a thick fluid in blood vessels.
A hair-like filament known as type IV pili, found on the surface of the bacteria, are constantly extending and retracting on the surface of the meningococcal bacteria. The researchers found that the meningococcal bacteria use type IV pili to find other bacteria, draw them in and make contact. This movement means that the bacteria can group together and form a thick fluid that can flow through and adapt to the shape and size of the blood vessels.
Meningococcal infection is a major cause of meningitis and septicaemia. These are deadly diseases that need rapid diagnosis and treatment in hospital with antibiotics. However, even with prompt treatment, some patients will develop blood clotting and lose limbs or even their lives as a consequence.
Meningitis Research Foundation welcomes this new research because it improves understanding of the way in which meningococcal infection develops. This could ultimately lead to the development of more advanced treatments for people who contract the disease.