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23 - 01 - 2018

Bacterial toxins causing infectious lymphoedema

A mouse and in vitro study identified the cause of lymphoedema associated with skin and soft tissue infections.


Lymphedema is an accumulation of lymph in a part of the body, as a result of a failure of the lymphatic vessels to drain it. Lymphedema can be spontaneously painful and irreversible.


Bacterial infections of the skin and soft tissues are a cause of lymphoedema, but the reason was unknown until recently.


An imaging study performed in a mouse model of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus infection (MRSA) found that the infection caused an immediate reduction in the contractility of the lymphatic vessels and lymph flow, which caused lymphedema.


This lymphedema persisted for a very long time after the disappearance of the infection and inflammation.


The researchers were able to highlight in this model a loss of muscle cells and a disorganization of the lymphatic vessels muscles. This affected the contractile capacity of these vessels and the maintenance of lymph flow.


Proteomic analyses carried out in vitro helped identify the role of the agr bacterial gene responsible for the synthesis of toxins involved in the death of the muscle cells. MRSAs lacking this gene did not cause lymphoedema.




The agr gene is therefore now a target for preventive treatment of lymphedema in case of bacterial infection of the skin and soft tissues.