How a bacteria digests a sugar can be key to new treatments

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The severity of a common and often lethal type of bacteria depends on its ability to process a type of sugar, research from the University of Adelaide reveals.

Streptococcus pneumoniae causes diseases of the lungs, blood, ear and brain, killing an estimated one million people every year. Moreover S. pneumoniae causes otitis media (infection of the middle ear), which devastates Aboriginal populations. It also rapidly develops resistance to antibiotics, making it challenging to treat.

The death toll of antibiotic resistant is predicted to rise to more than 10 million people by 2050.

Research performed by Vikrant Minhas has discovered that a strain of the bacteria that processes a sugar known as raffinose was responsible for causing deadly lung disease.

However, a closely related strain that was unable to utilize the sugar caused much less disease in the ear.

Using a , Vikrant and colleagues discovered that when the raffinose-regulating gene in the bacteria was swapped, the disease progressions also changed.

"Fundamental knowledge such as this, explaining how bacteria spread around the body, is crucial if we are to replace with other types of life-saving treatments," says Vikrant.

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More information: Vikrant Minhas et al. Capacity To Utilize Raffinose Dictates Pneumococcal Disease Phenotype, mBio (2019). DOI: 10.1128/mBio.02596-18
Journal information: mBio

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Citation: How a bacteria digests a sugar can be key to new treatments (2019, December 6) retrieved 21 October 2020 from
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