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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.