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‘Bacterial Vampirism’: Study Says Deadly Pathogens Are Attracted to Human Blood – National | Globalnews.ca

Some of the world’s deadliest bacteria show a particular craving for human blood, a discovery that sheds new light on the mechanisms of bloodstream infections and possible treatments.

This phenomenon is called “bacterial vampirism” by researchers and is described in detail in a study published Tuesday in the magazine eLifefound that certain bacteria are attracted to the liquid component of blood, called serum, where they search for essential nutrients.

“This chemical in our blood that we use as food is also recognized as food by these pathogenic bacteria… They are attracted to human blood and therefore swim towards it,” explained Arden Baylink, a professor at the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine and corresponding author of the research.

“This includes a lot of bacteria that people are probably familiar with… E. coli and salmonella,” he told Global News.

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The bacteria studied by the researchers are called multidrug-resistant Enterobacteriaceae pathogens The World Health Organization has flagged “Priority pathogens”. These pathogens belong to a group of 12 families of bacteria considered the greatest threat to human health due to their resistance to antibiotics, the WHO said.


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Enterobacterales can also be “opportunistic pathogens that cause various types of infections such as urinary tract infections, pyelonephritis, sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis.” according to Health Canada.

The researchers found that at least three species of Enterobacteriaceae pathogens commonly found in the intestinal tract of humans – Salmonella, E. coli and Citrobacter koseri – are attracted to human blood.

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Baylink explained that people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are particularly susceptible to these bacteria, which are typically found in the gut.

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“Normally healthy people will not be exposed to a lot of blood in their intestines. But there are certain people who are at higher risk,” he said.

“Some people have chronic bleeding in the intestines. These people, even those with inflammatory bowel disease, essentially have small cuts in their intestines that bleed. “It’s possible that this blood source could be a food source for these pathogens.”

And ultimately, Baylink says, bacteria that enter the bloodstream can cause death.

What is “bacterial vampirism”?

It is recognized that people with… With IBD, there is an increased risk of infectionUnderstanding the precise mechanisms that increase the likelihood of these bacteria entering the bloodstream remains a challenge, he said.

That’s why the researchers at Washington State University wanted to dig deeper.

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To do this, the team used a high-powered microscope and simulated intestinal bleeding by injecting microscopic amounts of human serum and observing how the bacteria navigated to the source.

“Bacteria are microscopic organisms and they have neither eyes nor the ability to hear. But they actually have something analogous to the sense of smell. So the bacteria’s sense of smell is a behavior called chemotaxis. A primary function of chemotaxis is to search for food,” Baylink said.

“So if you can imagine that these bacteria are swimming around, they’re using this behavior called chemotaxis to look for nutrients.”

It turns out that there is a chemical in our blood, serum, that provides a rich reservoir of nutrients for bacteria: sugars and amino acids, as well as essential metals like iron and zinc. One of the chemicals the bacteria seemed particularly attracted to was serine, an amino acid found in human blood and also a common ingredient in protein drinks.

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When the researchers looked at the results through the microscope, Baylink said they were “very surprised” and found that the bacteria appeared to be consuming our blood.

“Within seconds they are clearly moving towards it, and in a minute there is a veritable swarm of them at the source. So there is no question that they are very attracted to the serum,” he said.

This bloodlust is why the team dubbed the bacteria “bacterial vampirism.”

Given that the bacteria the researchers studied are known to have multidrug-resistant strains, the researchers emphasize the urgent need to develop new therapies in the future.

“To develop new therapeutics, we need to develop strategies to potentially block their infection,” Baylink said.

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“The idea is that this type of research can potentially lead to new therapeutics in the future. And that could potentially reduce the risk of these bacteria getting into the bloodstream.”

&Copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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