How do the enzymes hyaluronidase and collagenase increase bacterial virulence?

Hyaluronidase and collagenase are enzymes that some bacteria produce that degrade hyaluronic acid and collagen respectively. Hyaluronic acid and collagen are components of the extracellular matrix found in epithelial tissue.

If bacteria have the ability to produce hyaluronidase and/or collagenase, the bacteria is able to “eat away” at the extracellular matrix and infect deeper into the tissue, increasing its virulence.

Examples of bacteria that have the ability to produce hyaluronidase and collagenase are Yersinia pestis which causes bubonic plague and Clostridium perfringes which causes gas gangrene.

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