White blood cells ‘eat’ and gas bacteria

December 8th, 2008 - 1:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Dec 8 (IANS) Poisonous gas used as a potent weapon during World War 1, also helps the body fight invading bacteria and controlling infection. This latest research significantly advances previous findings which demonstrated that our bacteria-fighting foot soldiers, or white blood cells (WBCs), actually use the equivalent of chlorine bleach to kill invading bacteria.

University of Otago University scientists Tony Kettle and doctoral candidate Melanie Coker, have discovered that a part of this bacteria killing process may involve gassing the invading bacteria within (WBC) itself, after bacteria have been enveloped and ‘eaten’ by scavenging neutrophils.

The scientists have shown that the interaction between proteins and hypochlorous acid (household bleach) in WBCs, results in the production of toxic chloramine gas, which has a lethal effect on any bacteria.

Although this finding has not been proven within living cells it has been replicated in the lab using proteins from human cells and hypochlorous acid.

WBCs or neutrophils, surround and consume potentially damaging bacteria, and deliver the final ‘coup de grace’ through the actions of bleach, said an Otago release.

While attacking bacteria, WBCs are also known to cause inflammation in chronic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or cystic fibrosis; besides promoting cancers.

The discovery has been featured as a cover story in the American journal, Chemical Research in Toxicology.

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