Edinburgh Infectious Diseases
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Research Focus: From fruit fly survival to imaging immune cells

We explore publication highlights from across Edinburgh Infectious Diseases, March 2023.

Why do some fruit flies succumb to infection while others survive?

The fruit fly, Drosophila is a powerful model commonly used to study host-pathogen interactions. Researchers investigated how differences in the DNA sequences of fruit flies, contribute to how effectively they can survive infection to Drosophila C virus.

Intraspecific genetic variation in host vigour, viral load and disease tolerance during Drosophila C virus infection.

Using metabolomics data to reveal intriguing stories

Sleeping sickness is a potentially fatal disease caused by the parasite Trypanosoma brucei, which attacks the nervous system. For these parasites to survive, they rely on an energy-producing process called glycolysis. Inhibiting this process using small-molecules has been shown to treat sleeping sickness. In this study, researchers used metabolomics (a method that gives a snapshot of the health of living organisms by analysing the fats, sugars and other metabolites present under particular conditions) to understand how small-molecule inhibitors of glycolysis effect Trypanosoma brucei.

Metabolic insights into phosphofructokinase inhibition in bloodstream-form trypanosomes

Bronchiectasis patients with comorbid asthma at higher risk of relapse

Bronchiectasis is a long-term lung condition that causes a persistent cough, shortness of breath and a risk of recurrent respiratory tract infections. Asthma is a common comorbidity in patients with bronchiectasis and has been shown to exacerbate the condition, which is commonly treated with antibiotics.  In this randomised controlled trial, researchers discover bronchiectasis patients with co-existing asthma were at increased risk of relapse after stopping antibiotic therapy.

Early Exacerbation Relapse is Increased in Patients with Asthma and Bronchiectasis (a Post hoc Analysis)

Imaging immune cells in-situ

Immune cells, such a T cells and B cells produce antibody molecules that can bind and destroy invading viruses and bacteria. Researchers have developed a new method to observe immune cells in lungs (in-situ) that are ventilated outside of the body (a method called “ex vivo lung ventilation”). Molecular imaging of the cells and molecules that regulate immunity could provide unique insight into the mechanisms of action, and failure, of immunotherapies.

Specific in situ immuno-imaging of pulmonary-resident memory lymphocytes in human lungs

Transmission of COVID-19 from hospitals into care homes

Researchers have found that 99 per cent of patients discharged from hospital into care homes during the first wave of the pandemic did not introduce COVID-19 into care homes.

The study, conducted with the University of Edinburgh, focused on patients in Lothian discharged from hospital into 130 care homes from 1st March 2020 to 31st May 2020. 

Read here: Investigation of hospital discharge cases and SARS-CoV-2 introduction into Lothian care homes

NHS Lothian news: Results of research into transmission of COVID-19 from hospitals into care homes released

Clues to avian flu resistance

Researchers have identified several genes which may explain why some species of birds are less susceptible to highly pathogenic avian influenza than others.

Read here: The molecular basis of differential host responses to avian influenza viruses in avian species with differing susceptibility

Phage against the machine

Small bacteria-busting viruses called bacteriophages were used to deliver antimicrobials that target Shigella, a bacteria responsible for the intestinal infection, shigellosis. The antimicrobial agent targeted Shigella using a CRISPR “gene scissor” system that genetically manipulates the bacteria into a response that is lethal to their cells. Genetically targeting bacteria can re-sensitize bacterial populations to antibiotic treatment, but is typically challenging to deliver in vivo. This study highlights the potential of combining bacteriophage-based delivery systems with CRISPR antibiotics to efficiently clear bacterial infections.

Read here: P1 Bacteriophage-Enabled Delivery of CRISPR-Cas9 Antimicrobial Activity Against Shigella flexneri

Comparing two critical outcomes of SARS-CoV-2 infection

Development of severe COVID-19 versus multisystem inflammatory syndrome relies on distinct factors that lead to variable host immune responses and inflammatory manifestations, despite following a common trajectory of immune dysregulation.

Read here: Severe COVID-19 versus multisystem inflammatory syndrome: comparing two critical outcomes of SARS-CoV-2 infection