Scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have identified a protein in Salmonella bacteria that enables it to infect immune cells called macrophages.

Salmonella, which causes food poisoning, slips unnoticed and multiplies inside macrophages – immune system cells on which the body relies to seek and destroy the invading microbes.

To date, it has been almost impossible and extremely complicated to determine how Salmonella escapes detection by macrophages.

A team led by Liang Shi of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has identified a suspect protein. The discovery of the protein would now enable the scientists to cripple the microbe’s ability to multiply inside macrophages.