Researcher uncovers treatment for E.coli

Oct 29, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- It couldn't be more ironic. Just as the number of people in North Bay, Ont., made ill by a recent E.coli outbreak, topped 200, a University of Alberta professor has announced a breakthrough in development of a treatment for the life-threatening bacteria.

Canada's worst E.coli breakout was in Walkerton, Ont. in 2000, when seven people died and more than 20 children suffered permanent kidney damage. But chemistry professor David Bundle and his co-workers may have found a way to protect the kidneys.

"If you give [the patient] antibiotics the bacteria die and burst open, spilling their toxins," said Bundle, cautioning that if the E. coli toxin invades the kidney, the result can be fatal.

But Bundle and his colleagues-Pavel Kitov and Glen Armstrong-have created a drug that lashes the E.coli bacteria to a naturally-occurring protein molecule, preventing the E.coli from making contact with kidney cells.

The drug that acts like a lasso is called Polybait.

"Think of Polybait as piece of sticky string that wraps around the interface between the protein and the toxin," he said. "The surface of the toxin that kills kidney cells is drawn tightly against the surface of the protein and neutralizes it."

The molecules are held together long enough to be transported to the liver and eventually eliminated from the body.

Testing is in the early stages but so far the drug looks promising. One hundred per cent of the lab mice injected with E.coli toxin were saved by Polybait, although Bundle says that doesn't mean the big pharmaceutical companies will come running. The number of E.coli outbreaks and the relatively small number of victims will not draw a lot of investment dollars, he says, so to generate more interest Bundle and his team is trying to develop more uses for Polybait.

"We want to go beyond neutralizing bacteria to targeting specific cancer cells," he said, and that the team is working with the Scribbs Research Institute in the United States to do just that.

In the meantime Bundle and his group are hopeful that someday their E.coli treatment will be of help to people in places like North Bay and Walkerton.

"From a social perspective and also from a perspective of what it costs society to have people on kidney dialysis for long periods of time, this research is worthwhile."

Provided by University of Alberta

Explore further: EU calls for 5,000 doctors to fight Ebola

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Senators get no clear answers on air bag safety

2 hours ago

There were apologies and long-winded explanations, but after nearly four hours of testimony about exploding Takata air bags, senators never got a clear answer to the question most people have: whether or ...

Nicaragua: Studies say canal impact to be minimal

3 hours ago

Officials said Thursday that studies have determined a $40 billion inter-oceanic canal across Nicaragua will have minimal impact on the environment and society, and construction is to begin next month.

Former Brown dean whose group won Nobel Prize dies

3 hours ago

David Greer, a doctor who co-founded a group that won the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for working to prevent nuclear war and who helped transform the medical school at Brown University, has died. He was 89.

Recommended for you

EU calls for 5,000 doctors to fight Ebola

8 minutes ago

The European Commission called Wednesday for 5,000 doctors to be sent from EU states to combat west Africa's Ebola epidemic, a European source with knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday.

Guinea, hit by Ebola, reports only one cholera case

16 minutes ago

The health workers rode on canoes and rickety boats to deliver cholera vaccines to remote islands in Guinea. Months later, the country has recorded only one confirmed cholera case this year, down from thousands.

Sierra Leone official: Ebola worst could be over

17 minutes ago

The Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, which has been surging in recent days, may have reached its peak and be on the verge of slowing down, Sierra Leone's information minister said Wednesday.

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.