June 13, 2024

A team of researchers has discovered ‘bacterial vampires’ that are extremely attracted to human blood. According to the scientists, this particular type of bacteria can cause fatal infections.

The team which comprises scientists from Washington State University and the University of Oregon has highlighted how these bacteria are attracted to serum which is the liquid portion of the blood as it provides nutrients and energy.

According to scientists, this ‘deadly attraction’ can be problematic for people with irritable bowel disease (IBD) as intestinal bleeding can offer gut bacteria a route into the bloodstream.

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“Bacteria infecting the bloodstream can be lethal. We learned some of the bacteria that most commonly cause bloodstream infections actually sense a chemical in human blood and swim toward it,” microbiologist Arden Baylink from Washington State University said as quoted by Sciencealert.

During the study, the scientists used a customized device for injecting tiny amounts of fluid and a high-powered microscope to analyze the interaction of bacteria and blood.

The researchers found that strains of three bacteria known to cause fatal infections, belonging to the species Salmonella enterica, Escherichia coli, and Citrobacter koseri are attracted to the human blood serum.

The team believes that the amino acid serine is one of the chemicals the bacteria can sense, seek out, and consume, through particular protein receptors. When the scientists conducted experiments they found that it took less than a minute for these types of bacteria to realize that blood was nearby and to head towards it.

“We show here that the bacterial attraction response to serum is robust and rapid,” write the researchers in their published paper.

As a part of their study, the scientists investigated bacteria from the family Enterobacteriaceae, which have already been linked to conditions such as gastrointestinal bleeding and sepsis, particularly where IBD is involved.

The researchers believe that these bacteria are latching on to the internal bleeding that often comes with IBD, which is how fatalities can occur. It is noteworthy that IBD can lead to other chronic diseases and health complications.

According to the scientists, it is important to know how these bacteria are locating sources of blood as it might help in improving treatment outcomes.

“By learning how these bacteria are able to detect sources of blood, in the future we could develop new drugs that block this ability. These medicines could improve the lives and health of people with IBD who are at high risk for bloodstream infections,” immunologist Siena Glenn, from Washington State University said as quoted by Sciencealert.

The findings of the research has been published in eLife.


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