A trip to the candy store might help ward off rare, but deadly infections

January 4, 2010

As it turns out, children were not the only ones with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads over this past holiday season. In a new research report published in the January 2010 issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, a team of scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch and Shriners Hospitals for Children show how a compound from licorice root (glycyrrhizin from Glycyrrhiza glabra) might be an effective tool in battling life-threatening, antibiotic-resistant infections resulting from severe burns. Specifically, they found that in burned mice, glycyrrhizin improved the ability of damaged skin to create small proteins that serve as the first line of defense against infection. These proteins, called antimicrobial peptides, work by puncturing the cell membranes of bacteria similar to how pins pop balloons.

"It is our hope that the medicinal uses of glycyrrhizin will lead to lower death rates associated with infection in burn patients," said Fujio Suzuki, Ph.D., one of the researchers involved in the work. Suzuki also said that more research is necessary to determine if this finding would have any implications for people with , who can develop Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections in their lungs.

To make this discovery, Suzuki and colleagues used three groups of mice. The first group was normal, the second group was burned and untreated, and the third group was burned and treated with glycyrrhizin. The skin of the untreated burned mice did not have any detectable antimicrobial peptides that prevent bacteria from growing and spreading, but the normal mice did. The skin of the untreated burned mice also had immature myeloid cells, which indicate an inability of the skin to produce antimicrobial peptides needed to prevent infection. The mice treated with glycyrrhizin, however, were more like the normal mice as they had the antimicrobial peptides and no immature myeloid cells.

"Burns are the most painful of all injuries," said John Wherry, Ph.D., Deputy Editor of the , "and the deadly Pseudomonas infections that can result from severe burns do more than add insult to those injuries. This research should serve as an important stepping stone toward helping develop new drugs that help prevent or treat Pseudomonas."

Explore further: Trojan horse strategy defeats drug-resistant bacteria

More information: Tsuyoshi Yoshida, Shohei Yoshida, Makiko Kobayashi, David N. Herndon, and Fujio Suzuki. Glycyrrhizin restores the impaired production of β-defensins in tissues surrounding the burn area and improves the resistance of burn mice to Pseudomonas aeruginosa wound infection. J Leukoc Biol 2010 87: 35-41. www.jleukbio.org/cgi/content/abstract/87/1/35

Related Stories

Trojan horse strategy defeats drug-resistant bacteria

March 16, 2007

A new antimicrobial approach can kill bacteria in laboratory experiments and eliminate life-threatening infections in mice by interfering with a key bacterial nutrient, according to research led by a University of Washington ...

Two-phase microbial resistance: the example of insects

November 26, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- In less than an hour, the immune system of the beetle Tenebrio molitor neutralizes most of the bacteria infecting its hemolymph (the equivalent to blood in vertebrates); this is rendered possible by a cascade ...

No hiding place for infecting bacteria

March 16, 2009

Scientists in Colorado have discovered a new approach to prevent bacterial infections from taking hold. Writing in the Journal of Medical Microbiology, Dr Quinn Parks and colleagues describe how they used enzymes against ...

New silver nanoparticle skin gel for healing burns

July 22, 2009

Scientists in India are reporting successful laboratory tests of a new and potentially safer alternative to silver-based gels applied to the skin of burn patients to treat infections. With names like silver sulfadiazine and ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.