Attack and Counter-attack: the Ongoing Battle in EHEC Pathogenesis
Enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) and related bacteria cause outbreaks of diarrhea, with potentially fatal complications. EHEC, itself, poses a significant health threat in Canada, as illustrated by the outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario in the year 2000, affecting some 2,000 individuals and causing seven deaths.
Canada Research Chair Dr. Samantha Gruenheid studies how the interactions between these bacteria and the human intestine lead to disease, and why some infected people never get sick.
Humans have a wide range of resistance mechanisms to counteract bacterial infections. Microbes such as EHEC, however, have developed ways of overcoming our resistance mechanisms. Dr. Gruenheid's research examines this interaction from two angles - the mechanisms employed by bacteria to cause disease and the mechanisms employed by the host to resist infection.
Dr. Gruenheid has already found one bacterial protein that EHEC require in order to cause disease, and now she is trying to understand how this protein causes disease during infection. In addition, she is identifying other disease-causing EHEC proteins and determining whether differences in genetic background can explain why the outcomes of infection can vary greatly between person to person.
The information being gathered by Dr. Gruenheid is helping us to understand how bacteria cause disease and how our bodies fight it. And, in the process, we hope it will improve the way we detect, prevent - and treat - bacterial infections.