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Bacteria: A medical cloak and dagger Add to ...

SickKids researchers have discovered that in order to spread from cell to cell, Listeria, which causes inflammation and disease, camouflages itself to trick other cells into gobbling it up. After sneaking inside, the intruder releases its toxin and replicates. Knowing how it spreads is the first step in figuring out how to stop it. Here’s how it works

Listeria enters the cell to escape antibodies and to seek nutrients for replicating itself
After entering the cell, Listeria is immediately surrounded by a membrane that it dissolves with its toxins
Listeria reacts with protein in the cell, causing a chemical reaction that drives movement ('rocketing') of the bacteria
The moving Listeria pushes into the outer membrane of the cell, resulting in a sort of ‘bulge’ on the edge of the cell
When that bulge pinches off, the Listeria is cloaked in membrane from the previous cell
When Listeria approaches a neighbouring cell in its new disguise, the cell sees the membrane-surrounded Listeria as cellular garbage and ingests it as a regular cleaning activity
Once inside the neighbouring cell, Listeria removes its disguise, releases its toxins and begins to replicate and rocket through the cell, allowing the spread of the infection.
Graphic by Matthew Bambach, Source: Dr. John Brumell, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids)
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