Past work has shown that S. pneumoniae
“spreads more effectively when a person also has the flu,” where their immune system is weakened. Indeed, in mouse models, it has been shown that the increased secretions created by an influenza viral infection aid S. pneumoniae
in overcoming “population constraints that come with remaining in one host.” In this current study, the researchers were able to show, for the first time, pneumococcal transmission in the absence of influenza viral infection.
Because the bacteria depend on their host to survive, experts have questioned why they would give off a toxin that is so destructive. According to the researchers, the benefits to the bacteria that come with increasing transferability outweigh the risks that come with attacking the food source (host).
With this in mind, Dr. Weiser stated, “Our study results argue that toxins made by bacteria are central mediators of transmission between hosts, which makes them attractive as a potential ingredient in vaccines, to which they could be added specifically to block transmission. There are precedents in using disarmed bacterial toxins, or toxoids, as vaccine ingredients, as with existing vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.”
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