Group A Streptococcus is one of the nastiest bacteria out there, as far as humans are concerned. Most commonly, we know it as strep throat, but it can induce a whole host of infections, like impetigo, toxic shock and, in extreme cases, necrotizing fasciitis, better known as flesh-eating bacteria. The worst part is that there’s no way to vaccinate against it, but a team at the University of California San Diego might have just cracked it.
The main problem with strep is that it’s a master of disguise. It provokes an immune response to a certain set of proteins, called M proteins, that are so specific, the body won’t notice another virus with a different set. It then uses those M proteins to bond to a protein called C4BP, using the body’s own immune response to shut down our immune systems and run wild. So researchers turned that strategy around on strep, creating, in a virtual simulation, an antibody that acts like C4BP.
Obviously, this is still theoretical, but recent breakthroughs in immunotherapy indicate that it’s a powerful tool we’ve only just begun exploring. In the meantime, keep tidy, keep your injuries clean, and if you’ve got a sore throat, stay home. The best way to stop strep, for now, is to not spread it.