New discovery in battle against deadly meningococcal disease

New findings in the fight against diseases caused by the deadly meningococcal bacteria were published in PLOS Pathogens on Friday.

The research showed how the bacterium begins to colonize in people and turn into a potential life threatening disease.

"Until now we have not known how it attaches to the human host," Professor Michael Jennings, one of the articles' authors, said. "It has been a long-standing mystery how it attaches to the airway to colonize."

The disease has been a mystery to scientists for some time, and currently has no protective vaccine. People can house the disease without getting any symptoms, while some in some people, the disease will progress to its more serious stages.

"It's not actually protein that attaches to the receptor but decorations on the protein that are known as post-translational modifications," Jennings said. "One of these is a sugar structure, which of course is of great interest to our work here at Glycomics."

The researchers found the specific pathway this bacteria uses to travel through humans and eventually cause serious diseases. Finding this first point of contact helps researchers more fully understand the organism and gives them a better chance of developing a vaccine against it.

"If you understand how the bug first attaches and how it first signals its attachment then we may identify new risk factors or treatment procedures," Jennings said.