Study sheds light on why some people may change into seriously ill from meningococcal bacteria – health

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Researchers at Karolinska Institute in Sweden have come one step closer toward understanding why some people change into seriously ill or die from a common bacterium that leaves the general public unhurt.

In a study published in The Lancet Microbe, the researchers linked RNA mutations inside the bacterium Neisseria meningitides to invasive meningococcal disease, marking the first time a non-coding RNA in a bacterium has been linked to disease progression.

The researchers have also designed and validated a PCR test that can detect these mutations.

“We found that non-coding RNA mutations inside the bacterium N. meningitidis are nearly twice as likely to be associated with serious meningococcal disease, an unusual but serious infection that can result in death,” says Edmund Loh, corresponding writer and assistant professor at the Branch of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology at Karolinska Institutet. “This could also be the first time a non-coding RNA in a bacterium has been associated with the development of a disease in humans.”

N. meningitidis is a bacterium that is ceaselessly found in the nose of 10 to 15 per cent of the human population. In general, bacteria do not cause any disease. Alternatively, when it does, people can change into very ill all of a sudden and die inside a couple of hours whether left untreated.

The research work began in 2017 after a strain of the N. meningitidis bacterium used to be lonely from a Swedish teenager who succumbed to meningococcal meningitis. When compared with another strain of the same bacterium lonely from an asymptomatic individual, the researchers discovered a mutation in a regulatory non-coding RNA molecule, referred to as RNA thermosensor, or RNAT, inside the strain from the dead teenager.

This finding prompted the researchers to embark on a quest to gather and investigate more than 7,000 RNAT configurations of N. meningitidis from around Europe. In complete, the researchers discovered five new variants of RNATs that may be linked to illness, that is they were much more likely to seem in individuals who had change into ill from the bacterium.

These variants shared a common trait in that they produced more and bigger capsules that insulated the bacterium and thus helped it evade the body’s immune system.

“This is the first time we have been in a position to associate an RNAT’s effect on meningitis disease progression,” says the paper’s first writer Jens Karlsson, PhD student at the same branch. “This supports further research into this and other non-coding RNAs’ potential involvement in the development of bacterial diseases.”

As a part of the study, the researchers also developed a quick PCR test that is capable of distinguishing these RNAT mutations.

“At some point, this PCR test is also coupled with a simple nose swab at a clinic, and in doing so, facilitate a speedy identification of these mutations, and subsequent remedy,” Edmund Loh concludes.

The study used to be funded by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and the Swedish Research Council.

Facts approximately RNAs:

-RNAs (ribonucleic acids) are molecules that perform a range of functions inside the cells. There are lots of kinds of RNAs, for instance, RNAs that carry protein-coding messages from DNA and RNAs that keep an eye on the expression of different genes.

-Non-coding RNAs are molecules that don’t seem to be translated into proteins. There are believed to be thousands of them in the human genome, many whose functions don’t seem to be yet understood. Some have been linked to the development of diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.

-Non-coding RNAs in bacteria help keep an eye on several physiological processes. For instance, the Nobel prize-winning CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing tool partly originated from the discovery of the non-coding RNA molecule, tracrRNA, which helps disarm viruses by cleaving their DNA.

In this study, the researchers link the non-coding RNA molecule, RNA thermosensor, or RNAT, in the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis to the progression of invasive meningococcal disease. It’s the first time a non-coding RNA molecule in a bacterium has been linked to the progression of disease in humans.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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