Treatment and prevention of life-threatening infections could be improved by research that reveals how bacteria are kept in check.
Researchers have discovered how the immune system stops bacteria in our gut from leaking into the blood stream and causing body-wide inflammation, such as sepsis.
The study also helps to explain why we do not suffer more infections, despite the vast number of bacteria that are found naturally in our gut.
Our gut carries more than ten times as many bacteria than there are cells in our body. They are normally good for us as they help us to digest food and stave off infections with other types of bacteria that cause disease.
If, however, the bacteria escape from the gut into the blood stream, they can cause infections elsewhere in the body that become deadly if left untreated.
Their escape is triggered by an immune system failure that causes a massive inflammatory response. This damages healthy tissues and can lead to multiple organ failure.