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A*Star scientists discover how to combat hospital-acquired infections and life-threatening toxins
Date:7/22/2011

ads to US$45 billion in healthcare cost annually and results in nearly 100,000 deaths per year, making HAIs the fourth leading cause of death. The bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa that secretes PE toxin is a common cause of HAIs in vulnerable individuals, including those with burn injuries or receiving intensive care. Unfortunately, HAIs are increasingly difficult to treat because the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is on the rise. Similarly, the E. coli strain that produces Shiga toxins, found in the recent deadly food poisoning cases in Germany, were also resistant to antibiotics. Moreover, in food poisoning cases caused by such toxin-producing bacteria, doctors refrain from using antibiotics as killing the bacteria actually causes more toxins to be released, bringing on the worst symptoms of the illness . There is therefore a real need worldwide for antidotes against these life-endangering toxins.

Highlighting the significance of this study, Dr Bard added, "Through this genome-wide screen, our understanding of how toxins interact with human cells at the molecular level expanded tremendously. Our hope is that with these new therapeutic targets identified from the human genome, we will be one step closer to finding toxin antidotes that will make hospital-acquired infections and enterotoxic E. Coli outbreaks a thing of the past."

More about protein toxins

Though immunologically different from each other, Ricin, PE, Diphtheria and Shiga toxins all kill by destroying the cell's protein synthesis 'factories', the place where all proteins necessary for the cell's survival are produced. To travel to these protein 'factories' in the cell, the toxins first trick the host cell into turning off a natural defense mechanism that destroys foreign proteins. Next, they exploit the host cell's internal transport pathway to reach the protein 'factories', destroying them and killing the cell. When this happens, cell death is imminent.
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Contact: Dr. Sarah Chang KC
chang_kai_chen@a-star.edu.sg
656-826-6442
Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore
Source:Eurekalert

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