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Scientists discover link between bacteria and supposedly non-infectious diseases

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News from: The University of Manchester

A group of scientists have found that a single molecule from a bacterial cell wall component can lead to the unusual behaviour of 100 million clotting molecules in blood, which may be a major contributor to many diseases including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and diabetes. The discovery could help to explain many features of these kinds of diseases, and may lead to new methods of prevention or treatment.

A team from The University of Manchester, together with South African colleagues from The University of Pretoria, tested blood and plasma for its ability to clot when the normal clotting agent thrombin was added. Normal, healthy blood clots have a nice spaghetti-like appearance. However, the results showed that tiny amounts of cell wall molecules such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which are shed by dormant bacteria, caused a highly anomalous clot to form dense deposits with very different fibres.

These can contribute to the chronic inflammation that is part of many supposedly non-infectious diseases. These include Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ‘auto-immune’ conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular problems such as stroke, and metabolic diseases including type 2 diabetes.

The discovery could have considerable impact on the treatment of these conditions, since stopping the unusual clotting could stop its consequences. Existing treatments do not do this, as the new mechanism had not previously been known.

The work is part of an ongoing collaboration funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to understand unusual blood clotting.

Professor Douglas Kell, Research Chair in Bioanalytical Science at The University of Manchester, said: “The breakthrough finding that tiny amounts of bacterial cell wall material can have a massive effect on causing blood to clot in an unusual way explains much about the biology of many of these diseases. This opens up novel means - including nutritional - for their prevention and treatment.”

Resia Pretorius, from the Department of Physiology at The University of Pretoria, said “The importance of LPS in inflammatory diseases has been mostly overlooked, and has been used to induce both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease in animal testing for many years. Inflammatory diseases are also closely linked to Leaky Gut Syndrome. Together with our new findings regarding the involvement of a (dormant) blood microbiome, this demonstrates that dormant bacteria can play an important role in all inflammatory diseases.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

The paper is published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

About The University of Manchester

The University of Manchester, a member of the prestigious Russell Group, is the UK’s largest single-site university with 38,600 students. It has 20 academic schools and hundreds of specialist research groups undertaking pioneering, multi-disciplinary teaching and research of worldwide significance. The University is one of the country’s major research institutions, rated fifth in the UK in terms of ‘research power’ (REF 2014), and has had no fewer than 25 Nobel laureates either work or study there. The University had an annual income of £1Bn in 2014/15. www.manchester.ac.uk


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