Science in Action
Humans develop resistance to disease by developing antibodies, but also require other proteins to fight infection. Individuals who lack what are known as complement proteins cannot kill bacteria and therefore can experience multiple attacks of meningococcal meningitis throughout their lives unless they take antibiotics for life.
The research team at St Mary's team has shown that genetically determined abnormalities in a number of blood proteins influence both susceptibility and outcome of meningococcal disease and other infections.
The Human Genome
Over the past decade, there has been a major revolution in medical science through the unravelling of the human genome, and the development of sophisticated new methods for studying both the genes and proteins which are involved in the response to infections and life-threatening illnesses.
The Human Genome Project, which successfully identified every gene in the human body, has provided the research team with an invaluable set of tools. The task facing the scientists now is to identify what role each gene plays in the susceptibility to disease, and the progress of disease once contracted.
Find more information on the Human Genome Project at www.genome.gov