Who would have guessed? It turns out that the reason that Strep throat is so painful and serious is that a highly virulent strain of group A strep secretes the SlaA protein, a pathogen enzyme called secreted phospholipase A2, which is related to a potent snake venom toxin.
SlaA kills human cells and helps the strep germ to spread throughout the body.
To take this research further, Musser’s group made a mutant strep strain that no longer secreted SlaA and studied it in several infection models.
- Their research showed that inactivating the SlaA gene produced a far less virulent strep strain.
- In addition, animals given a vaccine based on SlaA were protected against severe strep disease.
- Finally, it was shown that SlaA was required for effective infection of throat.
Musser’s group is continuing to characterize the effect of SlaA on human cells with the goal of developing new therapies that target and neutralize this toxin, thereby lessening the severity of strep disease.
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