FRIDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2016

Clues found in fight against Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria

A group of British scientists believe they have found genetic clues to the fight between Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria and the antibiotics and vaccines that are devised to stop the disease.

The study has identified genetic events during which bacteria like S. pneumoniae has responded rapidly to evolve resistance to new vaccines and antibiotics, according to ScienceDaily.com.

"Drug resistant forms of S. pneumoniae first came onto the radar in the 1970s," Stephen Bentley, of the U.K. Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said, according to UPI. "We sequenced 240 samples collected over the course of 24 years from the PMEN1 lineage of S. pneumoniae. By comparing the sequences, we can begin to understand how this bacterium evolves and reinvents itself genetically in response to human interventions."

The research has shown that the pathogen reinvents itself and evolves at a surprisingly rapid rate. The bacteria's genes for antigens, which are the molecules that trigger the human immune response, have the ability to change in response to vaccinations, according to ScienceDaily.com.

"If the immune system targets these antigens, then the bacteria can simply change them, like a criminal changing their appearance to evade detection," William Hanage, a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health said, according to UPI.