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Q fever

Fighting inflammation

It takes just five Coxiella burnetii bacteria to infect a healthy individual with a type of pneumonia called Q fever, which can cause heart and liver damage. A study conducted by the biologist Dario Simões Zamboni, of the University of São Paulo’s Ribeirão Preto School of Medicine, showed that the efficiency of these microorganisms is based on their ability to inhibit the immune reaction that wipes out infected cells (Nature Communications, December 21, 2015). Specifically speaking, the bacteria block the activation of caspase enzymes inside a group of proteins called the inflammasome, prompting the release of a series of substances and triggering an inflammatory response. The culprit is a protein that the scientists identified in C. burnetii and christened IcaA (inhibition of caspase activation). According to Zamboni, IcaA and proteins that are as yet unknown may prove useful in treating inflammatory processes, including sepsis.