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Tackling the bacterium that causes cat scratch disease

Bartonellosis is the name for an infectious disease produced by bacteria called Bartonella. Species from this genus cause diseases like Carrión’s disease, trench fever, cat-scratch disease, bacillary angiomatosis, peliosis hepatis, chronic bacteremia, endocarditis, chronic lymphadenopathy, and neurological disorders. Of the different disorders, ‘cat scratch disease’ is probably the most well-known.

A cat called Gizmo.

A cat called Gizmo.

Bartonella is a genus of Gram-negative bacteria, and the organisms are regarded as a facultative parasite. This means an organism that may resort to parasitic activity; however, this the organism does not rely on any host for completion of its life cycle. In other words, parasitic activity is ‘opportunistic’.

The research highlight, from the Fujita Health University, Japan, is that the BafA gene can not only be used to tackle infections arising from the bacterium. The research and insight into the gene can be further used in regenerative medicine for replacing or regenerating lost or damaged parts of the body.

The [url=http:// t=_blank]function of the gene is as a pro-angiogenic autotransporter, where angiogenesis is concerned with the formation of new blood vessels (a pivotal process in all types of wound healing). Through this method, the researchers have demonstrated that the bacteria can induce vasoproliferative lesions during the infection process.

The significance of this is that BafA is a key pathogenic factor contributing to bacterial spread and host adaptation. Through this process the bacteria use cells that line the interior of blood vessels in order hide themselves from the body’s immune system.

Knowing this provides an opportunity for fighting infections, with the scientists being of the view that BafA is a potential target for the development of diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for bartonellosis.

There is also the possibility that the gene could be used in regenerative medicine, focused on replacing or regenerating lost or damaged parts of the body.

The research study has been published in the journal Nature Communications. The study, led by Kentaro Tsukamoto, is titled “The Bartonella autotransporter BafA activates the host VEGF pathway to drive angiogenesis.”

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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