By Deborah Grainger & Peter A. Fung
First published September 12th, 2016 on www.Biocompare.com
Bacteria and viruses are nature’s shapeshifters, able to alter the make-up of their surface proteins in order to evade recognition by host immune systems. This strategy increases the virulence of these infectious agents and enables them to re-infect hosts, despite any previous encounters with the same pathogen. For example, the Neisseria genus of bacteria can vary the composition of their pili — protein polymers on their surface that play critical roles in bacterial adhesion ; whereas Streptococci bacteria often vary their expression of M-protein , an anti-phagocytic virulence factor that also blocks an immune process called opsonization. Such bacterial surface proteins are prime targets for vaccine development, and being able to capture and study them is a vital element of this work.