The infection is called human monocytic ehrlichiosis (HME), and is one of the most prevalent and potentially life-threatening tick-borne diseases in the United States. The disease initially causes flu-like symptoms common to many illnesses, and in rare cases can be fatal if left untreated.
Most antibiotics can't build up in high enough concentrations to kill the infection-causing bacteria, Ehrlichia chaffeensis, because the microbes live in and multiply inside human immune cells. Commonly known bacterial pathogens like Streptococcus and E. coli do their infectious damage outside of hosts' cells.
Ohio State University researchers created nanobodies intended to target a protein that makes E. chaffeensis bacteria particularly infectious.
A series of experiments in cell cultures and mice showed that one specific nanobody they created in the lab could inhibit infection by blocking three ways the protein enables the bacteria to hijack immune cells.