About this Research Topic
Bacterial pathogens continue to cause problems for humans because of the emergence of new pathogens and the evolution of existing pathogens. Approximately 160 new bacterial infectious diseases have been discovered between 1940-2010 and emerging infectious diseases constitute a significant burden on global economies and public health.
Bacterial virulence determinants causing disease in humans may evolve through complex host-pathogen interactions but pathogenesis may also evolve by “coincidental” selection in non-clinical environments because traits that confer virulence in a host environment may also be beneficial for bacteria in a non-host environment. This could for instance be the case for iron acquisition systems or for structural elements such as capsules or cell wall polysaccharides. Other virulence traits such as adherence, digestion resistance, and quorum sensing regulated toxin release may be beneficial not only in the interaction with leukocytes but also in the interaction with bacterial predators such as protists and other invertebrates.
While the majority of the research already published has focused on the occurrence and survival of specific pathogens in the outer environment, this research topic focusses on 1) the pool of environmental genes that may confer disease in humans and 2) the role non-clinical environments play for the evolution of virulence. This is an area which has only received little attention in the literature. We aim to address the research topic by including the following areas of research:
• The occurrence and diversity of homologs to virulence genes in non-clinical microbiomes
• Experimental studies investigating in situ expression, function and ecological role of homologs to virulence genes in non-clinical environments
• Phylogenetic studies reveailing the evolutionary history of environmental virulence gene homologs
• The role of acquisition of virulence genes through horizontal gene transfer in non-clinical environments for the evolution of new bacterial pathogens
The primary goal of this research topic is to provide the reader with an overview of the significance of virulence gene homologs for bacterial survival in non-human environments and the role these environments play for the evolution of new bacterial pathogenic traits and human pathogens. We welcome articles examining these topics and are interested in hearing from potential authors who can provide original research articles, reviews and opinion pieces.
Keywords: virulence genes, pathogens, non-clinical environments, ecological function, evolution, horizontal gene transfer
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