New Method Unmasks Chronic Infections

Photo: 5 mm silocone tube

Using 5 mm silocone tubes enables
the researcher to make a cross
section of chronic infections;
© University of Copenhagen

This opens the potential for developing new medicine to fight resistant bacteria.

Chronic infections are a large and growing problem throughout the developed world, and intensive research is being conducted in ways to combat the recalcitrant bacteria. When bacteria aggregate into so-called biofilm, they become resistant to antibiotics. Until now scientists have only been able to speculate about what happens when bacteria overpower the immune system during a chronic infection.

In close collaboration between various specialist fields, Danish scientists have now developed a method that gives a precise picture of how the immune system works. Using 5 mm silicone tubes, scientists created a model system that allows them to look closely at how the immune system and bacteria interact in isolation:

"Although we have always suspected that to cause a chronic infection, bacteria knock out the immune system’s white blood cells, the new method allows us to see precisely what happens. Instead of looking down on the bacterial surface, we can examine a section to see the interaction directly and follow how the bacteria react to white blood cells and to antibiotics. That enables us to understand the basic processes behind chronic infections," explains Professor Thomas Bjarnsholt, University of Copenhagen.

Maria Alhede adds: "The new method allows us to investigate which compounds the bacteria are secreting while overpowering the white blood cells. Conversely, we can also see what happens when the immune system works. The white blood cells make DNA traps that capture the bacteria, but that used to be only a guess."; Source: University of Copenhagen