Bacteria discovery could lead to antibiotics alternatives

May 03, 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: How calcium regulates mitochondrial carrier proteins

Related Stories

Chlamydia utilizes Trojan horse tactics to infect cells

Oct 06, 2011

A novel mechanism has been identified in which Chlamydia trachomatis tricks host cells into taking up the bacteria. Researchers from University of California San Francisco, led by Joanne Engel, report their findings in the ...

Bacteria enter via mucus-making gut cells

Oct 03, 2011

Cells making slippery mucus provide a sticking point for disease-causing bacteria in the gut, according to a study published on October 3 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Recommended for you

How calcium regulates mitochondrial carrier proteins

6 hours ago

Mitochondrial carriers are a family of proteins that play the key role of transporting a chemically diverse range of molecules across the inner mitochondrial membrane. Mitochondrial aspartate/glutamate carriers are part of ...

Precise measurements of microbial ecosystems

7 hours ago

The Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) has succeeded for the first time in describing the complex relationships within an ecosystem in unprecedented detail. For their work, carried out in collaboration ...

Students create microbe to weaken superbug

19 hours ago

A team of undergraduate students from the University of Waterloo have designed a synthetic organism that may one day help doctors treat MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant superbug.

User comments : 0

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.