Previous plagues and terrorist attacks have renewed public and government interest in biological warfare. Bioterrorism is a real threat, not only to America but the world at large. Due to its potential to wipe out entire communities indiscriminately and swiftly, bioterrorism can severely damage human population and society. When entering the body, microbial organisms must attack, undermine, or infiltrate and compromise the immune system. Understanding how microorganisms react to this system is vital to combat microbial organisms in the event of biological warfare. The strategies used by microbial organisms are condensed into three basic themes:
- Recruiting or mimicking complement regulators
- Modulation or inhibition of complement proteins by direct interactions
- Inactivation by enzymatic degradation, (Lambris, Ricklin, & Geisbrecht, 2008).
To help the medical researchers combat biological threats, they must understand how bacteria, fungi, and viruses infiltrate the human body and attack cells. Consequently, knowing the behavior, structure, and characteristics of these organisms is imperative to combat possible biological attack upon our nation.
Bacterial agents are known to successfully evade attacks by immune and complement systems. To bypass immunity, bacteria have learned to recruit regulators of complement activation (RCA) and provide RCA with a new host, the foreign bacteria. The bacteria then have control over the complement system’s mode of regulation discouraging the system from attack. The human host’s RCA is now aligned with the bacteria RCA that was recruited from the host. As the body recognizes this familiar regulator, it does not treat the foreign bacteria as a threat allowing it to further infiltrate the system and harm the body. Therefore, “in many cases the recruitment function can be attributed to a family of similar proteins in a bacterial genus”, (Lambris, Ricklin, & Geisbrecht, 2008). Bacteria ability to recruit RCA host is attributed to its structural dynamic, its soft cell wall. This characteristic is important when developing a medicine to combat bacteria. Familiarized with this characteristic, microbiologist can create a medicine that will refrain same pathogen derived binding from finding a RCA host, (Lambris, Ricklin, & Geisbrecht, 2008). Bacteria known to evade the complement system in this manner include Escherichia coli, Borrelia burgdorferi, and streptococci.
Viruses also take advantage of the complement system to permeate the body and avoid attack. However, unlike bacteria, viruses utilize a different strategy to access host cells. Viruses are known to utilize complementary receptors (CR) to gain entry. Complement regulators are fundamental for virus invasion within a host cell. Viruses benefit from surface proteins by targeting its receptors then internalizing it, (Lambris, Ricklin, & Geisbrecht, 2008). By mimicking the design, the virus is able to trick the complement system. This results in the virus invading the human host. The structure of the virus -its protein coat- allows a point of entry to the host. Consequently, the organism is able to take advantage of its organizational structure and make up. This advantage is a fundamental character when fighting biological warfare. Creating a combatant that will unfamiliarize the virus from the host and stop mimicry is essential to evade biological dangers.
Fungi, however, have become an ever increasing problem. It can adapt, change form, produce biofilms, and make morphological changes. These adaptations and variations have continued to elude modern medicines, helping fungi penetrate the host without detection or fight. One important characteristic to deceive immunity is its ability to change in phenotype. Fungi are known to “change their morphology, cell surface properties, colony appearance, biochemical properties, and metabolism”, (Karkowska-Kuleta, Kozik, & Kozik, 2009). These structural changes help the fungi spread and maintain infection inside the human host. Fungi can also change shape, color and texture. It is estimated by Karkowska-Kuleta, Kozik and Kozik that fungi will change their phenotype every 10 to 10⁴ colony. When developing a medicine to combat fungi, biologist must understand this fundamental characteristic. Although the fungi will change phonetically, medicines developed must learn to adapt to these changes.
Becoming better acquainted with microbial organisms and how they penetrate a host is important to develop therapeutic strategies to combat biological warfare. The strategies used by fungi, viruses, and bacteria to trick the host and evade attack are fundamental. Therefore, when developing medicines and antibiotics to fight off infection and disease, doctors and researchers can utilize the best method to produce a positive result. Creating medicine that will enable the host to not share molecular structures with the foreign organism is a must. This is the only guard that can ward off attack from microbial organisms. In conclusion, “our increasing knowledge of individual microbial agents, their human targets, and their mechanisms of action could not only facilitate our understanding of microbial infection but also pave the way towards new therapeutics”, (Lambris, Ricklin, & Geisbrecht, 2008).
- Karkowska-Kuleta, J., Rapala-Kozik, M., & Kozik, A. (2009). Fungi pathogenic to humans: Molecular bases of virulence of candida albicans, cryptococcus neoformans and aspergillus fumigatss. Acta Biochiica Polonica, 56(2), 211-224. Retrieved from http://188.8.131.52/medicine/aspergillus/articlesoverflow/19543556.pdf
- Lambris, J., Ricklin, D., & Geisbrecht, B. (2008). Complement evasion by human pathogens. National Review of Microbiology, 6(2), 132. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2814840/