Research shows how normally harmless bacteria can make a person sick

Researchers from the University of Buffalo released research on Tuesday that demonstrates how a normally harmless bacteria can become virulent and make someone sick.

There are many kinds of bacteria inside the body that could become virulent, but don't. An example of this is Streptococcus pneumonia, a type of bacteria that normally colonizes in the mucous inside throats and noses. It is harmless when inside the mucous, but becomes virulent when it leaves those surroundings and enters the middle ears, lungs or bloodstream.

"We were asking, what is the mechanism behind what makes us sick?" Anders P. Hakansson, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said. "We are looking to find ways to interfere with the transition to disease. Few have looked at the specific mechanism that suddenly makes these bacteria leave the nose where they typically prefer to reside and travel into the lungs or the middle ear where they cause disease. If we can understand that process, then maybe we can block it."

The researchers grew biofilms of Streptococcus pneumonia and infected them with influenza A. When influenza A was released into these colonies of bacteria, they released from the biofilm, which would mean leaving the throat or nose in a human body.

"Humans are the only natural hosts for these bacteria," Hakansson said. "When the viral infection comes in, there is this interkingdom signaling, where the bacteria respond to host molecules. If we can find ways to interrupt that signaling, we might be able to prevent disease."