1214 GMT December 12, 2019
According to Science Codex, the offending party is the Mycoplasma pneumoniae Community Acquired Respiratory Distress Syndrome (CARDS) toxin. The CARDS toxin, discovered at the Health Science Center in 2006, is considered the first major bacterial respiratory toxin discovered since the days of diphtheria and pertussis.
M. pneumoniae is a common and persistent infection in the lungs and airway. Once there, it produces the CARDS toxin and a cascade of harmful effects. Specifically, CARDS toxin reacts with NALP3, a key molecule that regulates inflammatory pathways, leading to excessive activation of pro-inflammatory reactions.
Inflammation is important for self-protection from infection and any injury, but when a microbial factor such as the CARDS toxin controls inflammation, bad things happen. Through this mechanism, CARDS toxin triggers exaggerated and prolonged inflammation that results in tissue injury, airway narrowing, mucus hypersecretion, wheezing and coughing.
"Now that we have identified this pathway of disease development, our goal is to prevent the wide range of airway pathologies caused by CARDS toxin with drugs, vaccines and protective antibodies," said study co-author Thirumalai R. Kannan, Ph.D., associate professor/research in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the UT Health Science Center.