Galectins direct immunity against bacteria that employ camouflage

Our bodies produce a family of proteins that recognize and kill
bacteria whose carbohydrate coatings resemble those of our own cells too
closely, scientists have discovered.

Called galectins, these proteins recognize carbohydrates (glycans) from a
broad range of disease-causing bacteria, and could potentially be
deployed as antibiotics to treat certain infections. The results are
scheduled for publication in Nature Chemical Biology.

In contrast to antibodies, the galectins kill the bacteria directly,
without needing other parts of the immune system to pile on. The
researchers identified several varieties of bacteria (Pseudomonas
aeruginosa, Providencia alcalifaciens, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and
Serratia marcescens, for example) targeted for killing by galectins. In
some cases, only certain strains of a given bacteria were vulnerable,
because only those strains carried the target glycan. 

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