University of Calgary

How pathogens move

Oct. 7, 2008

Closer to understanding how disease spreads

Building on work done earlier this year, research done in the labs of George Chaconas and Paul Kubes, is helping scientists have a better understanding of how pathogens move through a host.

Paul Kubes (left) and George Chacanos are both scientists of the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research.

Paul Kubes (left) and George Chacanos are both scientists of the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research.

The researchers demonstrated the first visualization of the dissemination of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. They showed the movement in a living host, using an engineered fluorescent strain of B. burgdorferi. 


Now further research done in their labs, observing the living pathogen that causes Lyme disease in real time, shows how a protein in B. burgdorferi interacts with a host protein and carbohydrate to adhere to a blood vessel. If it turns out this interaction is generally how pathogens move in a host it is an important discovery and will help scientists better understand how disease spreads.

This work was a collaboration between the labs of Chaconas, and Kubes, researchers from the Calvin, Phoebe, and Joan Snyder Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation. Postdoctoral fellows Ursula Norman, and Tara Moriarty were the major contributors to this research.  The work was made possible in part due to cutting edge infrastructure including spinning disk microscopy in the III live cell imaging facility funded by the CFI and ASRA.

Kubes and Chaconas are both scientists of the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR). Paul Kubes is a Canada Research Chair in Leukocyte Recruitment in Inflammatory Disease, and George Chaconas is a Canada Research Chair in Molecular Biology of Lyme Disease. This research is also supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

The study is published in PLoS Pathogens. It can be seen at: www.plospathogens.org/doi/ppat.1000169.