Research in the news: Surprise regulator of Salmonella virulence discovered

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The picture in the left shows a Salmonella colony making cellulose whereas the one in the right does not. Yale researchers were surprised to learn that Salmonella produces cellulose within host cells, which reduces its virulence.

Most bacteria are harmless. Even those, like Salmonella, that are dangerous place limits on their own virulence to ensure the host survives long enough to spread the infection.

Now, Yale University researchers have discovered that within host cells Salmonella actually produce cellulose — a key component of biofilms, which are not generally thought to be made during infection.

Researchers in the lab of Yale microbiologist Eduardo Groisman also found that when they interfered with the pathogen’s ability to make cellulose, it actually increased the virulence of Salmonella.

“Surprisingly, it appears that cellulose is an important moderator of virulence, which in turn helps Salmonella to survive longer by offering some protection to the host,” he said.

The study appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

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Bill Hathaway: william.hathaway@yale.edu, 203-432-1322