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Worm genes take on bacterial foes

While fruit flies don't have as sophisticated an immune system as mammals do, studies of these insects have provided great insight into the more basic aspects of how people ward off infectious microbes. Offering the first evidence that creatures as simple as worms also have an effective immune defense, scientists report in the July 23 Current Biology that the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans mounts a counterattack when infected by bacteria.

Gustavo V. Mallo of the University of the Mediterranean in Marseilles, France, and his colleagues found that infected worms boost the activity of many genes. Some of these genes encode proteins resembling ones with immune functions in more sophisticated animals.

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