Bacteria discovery could lead to antibiotics alternatives

May 3, 2012

Scientists have discovered an Achilles heel within our cells that bacteria are able to exploit to cause and spread infection.

The researchers say their findings could lead to the development of new anti-infective drugs as alternatives to whose overuse has led to resistance.

University of Manchester researchers studied Listeria – a potentially deadly group of that can cause listeriosis in humans when digested – and found they are able to spread infection by hitching a ride on a naturally occurring protein called calpain.

"Bacteria produce a number of chemicals that allow them to invade a host and to establish an infection," said lead researcher Dr David Brough, who is based in Manchester's Faculty of Life Sciences.

"The chemicals produced depend upon many factors, such as the species of bacteria, the type of host, and also whether the infection grows inside or outside a cell.

"We have investigated the growth of Listeria, a pathogenic bacterium that grows inside cells. An essential step for its growth, and thus the infection, is the bacteria's ability to move from within one compartment in a cell to another.

"We discovered that in order for this particular type of bacteria to move and to grow some of the host cells biology is exploited, a protein called calpain. Without calpain the bacteria cannot move within the cell and so do not grow.

"This discovery highlights the possibility of using drugs against these host proteins to block infections, potentially reducing the need to use antibiotics."

The study, funded by the Wellcome Trust, is published in the PLoS ONE journal.

Explore further: Study finds new way deadly food-borne bacteria spread

Related Stories

Recommended for you

New insights into the production of antibiotics by bacteria

July 31, 2015

Bacteria use antibiotics as a weapon and even produce more antibiotics if there are competing strains nearby. This is a fundamental insight that can help find new antibiotics. Leiden scientists Daniel Rozen and Gilles van ...

Out of the lamplight

July 31, 2015

The human body is governed by complex biochemical circuits. Chemical inputs spur chain reactions that generate new outputs. Understanding how these circuits work—how their components interact to enable life—is critical ...

Cell aging slowed by putting brakes on noisy transcription

July 30, 2015

Working with yeast and worms, researchers found that incorrect gene expression is a hallmark of aged cells and that reducing such "noise" extends lifespan in these organisms. The team published their findings this month in ...

0 comments

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.