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    Elaine Tuomanen, MD

    Elaine Tuomanen, MD

    Pneumonia germ cell wall can damage heart

    St. Jude investigators discover how pneumonia bacteria “hijack” immune system protein to escape bloodstream, invade heart muscle.

    Investigators at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital have discovered in mouse models how cell walls from certain pneumonia-causing bacteria can cause fatal heart damage, and they have shown how antibiotic therapy can actually make this damage worse by increasing the amount of cell wall pieces shed by dying bacteria.

    The team demonstrated exactly how the fragmented cell wall pieces are able to latch onto the inner lining of blood vessels and “ferry” themselves through the vessel wall and out into the body.
    However, the team used special drug-like molecules to successfully prevent the cell wall pieces from escaping from the blood vessels and entering the heart, which suggests that treatment could be developed to prevent heart damage in these cases.

    Elaine Tuomanen, PhD, chair of the St. Jude Department of Infectious Diseases, is senior author of a report on this study that appears in the November 1 issue of Journal of Immunology.

    Other authors of this paper include the co-first authors Sophie Fillon, Konstantinos Soulis, and Surender Rajasekaran;  Heath Benedict-Hamilton, Jana N. Radin, Carlos J. Orihuela, Karim C. El Kasmi, Gopal Murti, Deepak Kaushai, and Peter Murray (all of St. Jude); Waleed Gaber (University of Tennessee, Memphis); and Joerg Weber (Charite-Universitaetsmedizin, Berlin, Germany).

    This work was supported in part by ALSAC.   

    October 2006